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Opioids and Amnesia News Analysis 2 Brylee Gubler

After more than a dozen drug users were reported to have inexplicable
amnesia (Maron 2017). Massachusetts public health officials are requiring hospitals
to report drug affiliated amnesia to the state. The article read on the site Scientific
American titled Mystery Memory Loss among Illicit-Drug Users Spurs Health
Action written by Dina Fine Maron, describes that there may be a direct link
between opioid use and amnesia. The author interviewed Alfred Demaria
(epidemiologist) who described that the affected patients showed similar MRI scans
that showed damage to the hippocampus. The link has not been classified to a
single drug or batch of drugs, it was reported that 13 of 14 patients tested
positive for opioid use after showing clear signs of short term amnesia (Maron
2017). Demaria claims that the effects may be due to genetic features and the
potential that many people are exposed but only a few are vulnerable. (Maron
2017)
The primary source of this article would be an article posted on the CDC
website titled Cluster of an Unusual Amnestic Syndrome (Barash 2017). This
article describes damage to the hippocampi and the relation of substance use to
amnesia in a cluster of patients (Barash 2017). The primary source goes in great
detail of the patients reported and the variation of substances used. In contrast to
the article written by Maron whom is searching for a scientific hypotheses as to
what the underlying issues of this topic are.
Because the primary source of the article was posted on the CDC website it is
safe to assume that this is a public issue and can easily further effect the public
view of substance abuse. According to the article written by Maron, some of the
patients tested positive for marijuana. Marijuana is currently a controversial topic
due to the legalization in multiple states in the U.S. By releasing the findings of the
relation between amnesia and substance use, this could affect how marijuana and
other substances are viewed as a use of medicine and safety for recreation, if it
were to become legal. As well as individual perception of substances and the choice
whether or not to put yourself at risk by using them.
The epidemiologist interviewed in this article was Alfred Demaria, who is a
medical director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Healths infectious
disease bureau (Maron 2017). After reading the interview done by Maron, it does
not seem that Demaria had any altered conclusions, because Demaria did not come
to an absolute conclusion. Demaria simply walked the interviewer through the facts
and simple explanations as to what is known so far on the topic. Demaria did
mention similar situations as to when amnesia has previously occurred but did not
definitively relate these situations to this specific area of study. While researching
the topic I was unable to find a reliable source claiming that there is no relation
between memory loss and substance abuse.
My personal belief is in strong support of the medical use of cannabis. After
reading this article it is disconcerting to find that many of these patients involved
were under the influence of marijuana. Although it is stated in the Maron article that
Most of the patients tested positive for one or more drugs including opiates,
benzodiazepine, marijuana, PCP or other substances. (Maron 2017) It still proves
that there is still a need for more testing and proven results from the federal
Opioids and Amnesia News Analysis 2 Brylee Gubler

government to understand the full effects of substance abuse and what damage
(even if temporary) can be done.
Maron did an excellent job of explaining to a general audience what is
currently known about this issue at hand. Not only did she conduct an un-biased
interview, but also used credible sources (such as the CDC) to support her claim
that there is a potential danger at hand. Thanks to the local and federal government
there is a basic understanding that there is in face a danger behind substance
abuse. Maron used this general understanding of substance abuse as well as a clear
summary on documented amnesia cases to create a background for this article.

References
Barash, Jed A. Cluster of an Unusual Amnestic Syndrome. January 27, 2017.
cdc.goc/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6630a2.htm (accessed 19 2017, April).
Maron, Dina Fine. Mystery Memory loss among illicit-drug usters spurs health action.
April 19, 2017. scientificamerican.com/article/mystery-memory-loss-among-
illicit-drug-users-spurs-health-action/ (accessed April 19, 2017).