Opiate Drugs, Overdose, and Brain Damage


Written By: 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.

Published on Jan 4, 2020 | Health and Wellness, Types of Drug Addictions

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. This experience happens more than one may think. Opioid overdose can cause brain damage. Additionally, Hypoxic Brain Injury is the medical term for this occurrence, which is a lack of oxygen to the brain. 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 is depleted of oxygen. And the longer that happens, usually the worse the outcome.

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.

Common Mild Symptoms Of Opioid Overdose Brain Damage Include:

  • 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

Common Severe Symptoms Of Opioid Overdose Brain Damage Include:

  • 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 and Alcohol

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. So, if you are ready to learn more about our therapeutic approach to treating drug and alcohol addiction, contact us today. We also understand that the first step is the hardest. Hence why we are available both online and via telephone to support you and your loved one 24/7. 

Cite This Article
Lighthouse Editorial Team. "Opiate Drugs, Overdose, and Brain Damage." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on Jan 4, 2020, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/opiate-drugs-overdose-brain-damage/.


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