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The Link Between Drug Overdose and Brain Damage

by | Published on Jan 4, 2020 | Drug Addiction

Drug Overdose and Brain Damage

The opiate epidemic has made frequent reporting of the number of fatalities of drug overdoses commonplace. However, there is limited information regarding the people who survive opioid overdoses but suffered significant brain damage and other impairments. However, there’s an undeniable link between drug overdose and brain damage that we must understand.

Additionally, hypoxic brain injury occurs when the brain experiences a lack of oxygen. In an overdose, the person usually slowly stops breathing – cutting off oxygen to the brain. 

Other causes of brain hypoxia can be drowning, choking, suffocating, and cardiac arrest. In all of these situations, including overdose, the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen. And the longer that happens, usually the worse the outcome. Fumes, fires, and other toxins, including drugs that are snorted or inhaled, can also lead to toxic brain injury.

Unexpected Injuries From Drug Use On Body

Generally, most deaths from opiate overdoses occur when the user is alone. No one can get there in time to revive them. An overdose reversal drug is available called Narcan (Naloxone), which can temporarily reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. Most emergency personnel now carry Narcan, and it is also available over the counter. 

However, if not done in time, the person is at risk for brain damage or death. Also, excessive drug and alcohol use may also increase the risk of the addict developing long-term brain damage. There are also studies associating alcoholism with dementia.

Opiates, such as heroin or fentanyl, may cause brain damage. Additionally, the opioid overdose survivors may endure symptoms of brain damage from a drug overdose that can fluctuate in severity and duration. The frontal lobe is particularly susceptible to damage from overdose-induced oxygen deprivation, which can harm a person’s executive function abilities. As a result, they may experience problems with attention span, problem-solving, and emotional regulation.

Mild Symptoms Of Opioid Overdose Brain Damage

Most people will struggle with one or more of these mild symptoms. However, the level of severity depends on various factors such as genetics, previous medical conditions, length of opioid abuse, how much opioids they usually abuse, and more.

  • Memory loss
  • Lack of motor skills
  • Headaches
  • Nodding out or falling asleep
  • Mood Swings or Difficulty Regulating Emotions
  • Unable to carry a conversation or rationalize
  • Back pain and also neck pain
  • Vision loss
  • Loss of hearing
  • Difficulty with problem-solving

Sometimes, severe symptoms can also occur, including:

  • Seizure
  • Slowing down or stopped breath
  • Asleep without the ability to wake the person
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • The inability to speak or write clearly
  • Turning blue
  • Brain damage
  • Mental deterioration
  • Vegetative State and Coma
  • Death

Can Brain Damage Be Reversed?

Unfortunately, when the brain damage caused by drug use is too severe it can lead to coma or death. However, the brain is an incredibly resilient organ. If the damage is not too severe, the brain can repair itself.

Depending on the severity of the brain damage caused by drug use and the proactive lifestyle choices of the individual, this repair may take weeks, months, or years. There are certain measures that can be taken in order to help overcome brain damage from drug use. This includes:

  • Discontinuing drug use indefinitely.
  • Providing nutrients to the body through diet and supplements.
  • Significant, regular physical activity.
  • Engaging in positive thinking and mindfulness.
  • Brain exercises.

Treating and Preventing Brain Damage from Drugs

When brain hypoxia occurs, it is a medical emergency. Therefore, the sooner the person can get care, the less their chances of suffering from irreversible brain damage. However, this isn’t always the case with overdoses from opiate drugs. Additionally, it only takes about 3 to 5 minutes with a lack of oxygen for the brain to start to deteriorate.

The longer a person uses drugs that put the body’s health at risk, the more serious the drug-induced brain damage may be. Thus, at Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our goal is to help patients recover from all aspects of their addiction. 

Recovery also includes the damage caused by drugs and alcohol. Quality medical treatment is your best chance to prevent further damage to your mind and body. Treatment for substance abuse is the first step in finding recovery.

So, if you are ready to learn more about our therapeutic approach to treating drug abuse, contact us today to learn more about our addiction treatment center.

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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