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Unusual Amnestic Syndrome Seen With Opioid Abuse

Drug abuse may cause an unusual short-term memory syndrome

woman face showing signs of stress and worry

FRIDAY, Jan. 27, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Short-term memory loss may be yet another price of America's opioid addiction epidemic, according to a report published in the Jan. 27 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Massachusetts health officials reported a cluster of 14 patients in that state who experienced problems remembering things just told to them (sudden-onset amnesia). The patients also had abnormal results on magnetic resonance imaging brain scans.

Thirteen of the 14 patients were either actively using substances or had a history of substance abuse. Twelve said they had used opioids. Six of those with amnesia also said they had used benzodiazepines. Another five of those with amnesia had used cocaine, according to the report.

"The apparent temporospatial clustering, relatively young age at onset (19 to 52 years), and extensive substance use associated with this group of patients suggests broader surveillance is needed to determine whether this represents an emerging syndrome related to substance use or other causes, including introduction of a toxic substance," the authors write.

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