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The Truth About Opioid Overdose Brain Damage

The Truth About Opioid Overdose Brain Damage

Opioid overdoses are incredibly dangerous, and many people don’t understand exactly what happens during an opioid overdose.

As a person overdoses on opioids, their breathing may slow to dangerous levels, resulting in a lack of oxygen throughout the brain and body. In the brain, this lack of oxygen can cause opioid overdose brain damage, with overdose survivors experiencing numerous brain injury symptoms.

Toxic Brain Injury Is the Newest Type of Brain Damage from Drugs

  Drugs and alcohol have been associated with types of brain damage and injury that can be long-lasting. There are studies linking alcoholism and dementia and others investigating how heroin addiction can damage brain DNA. But one new discovery is called Toxic Brain Injury, which is a type of drug-related brain damage that effects opioid overdose survivors.

Toxic Brain Injury occurs when a person experiences nonfatal opioid overdose symptoms in which there is little to no oxygen going to the brain for a prolonged period of time. Toxic Brain Injury is caused by anoxic and hypoxic brain injuries. An anoxic injury occurs when the brain receives no oxygen at all, and a hypoxic brain injury occurs when the brain does not receive enough oxygen. The length of time the brain receives little to no oxygen will determine how severe this Toxic Brain Injury is. 1

Symptoms of Brain Damage from Drug Overdose

  Yes, heroin does cause brain damage. Opioid overdose survivors may experience symptoms of brain damage from a drug overdose that can range in intensity and severity. The frontal lobe is especially susceptible to damage from overdose-induced oxygen loss, which can harm a person’s executive function abilities. They may experience problems with planning, problem solving, emotional control, organization, and attention. 2

Common symptoms of opioid overdose brain damage include:

  • Memory problems
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty with problem solving

Memory loss is an increasingly common symptom of brain damage associated with opioid and opiate overdoses. Chronic abuse of drugs like fentanyl, heroin, painkillers, and other opioids may damage the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory. 3

Treating and Preventing Brain Damage from Drugs and Alcohol

  Long-term abuse can lead to opioid addiction, and the longer a person uses opiates or other drugs that put the brain’s health at risk, the worse the drug-induced brain damage may be. At Banyan Treatment Centers, we believe in helping patients heal from all aspects of their addiction, including the damage caused by drugs and alcohol. Professional medical treatment is needed to address the damage done by drugs. Not all types of brain damage may be repaired, but getting sober is a person’s best chance at preventing further damage.

Call 888-280-4763 to learn how we can help you get and stay sober.



  1. Brain Injury Association of America – The Solution to Opioids is Treatment
  2. NASHIA – Brain Injury and Opioid Overdose Fact Sheet
  3. WebMD – Memory Loss Hitting Some Fentanyl Abusers



Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
The Truth About Opioid Overdose Brain Damage
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