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    Small Doses: March 2018 Edition

    Easy-to-swallow news and studies for the busy pharmacist.



    Case Report Links Fentanyl to Amnesia

    Fentanyl—taken alone or in combination with stimulants—may cause amnesia, according to a new case report.

    Published in the January 30, 2018, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the case report is the first to link between fentanyl use and a form of amnesia that comes on suddenly and produces distinctive MRI results.

    “Buying opioids on the street isn’t like buying Tylenol,” says Marc W. Haut, PhD, lead author, neuropsychologist, professor, and chair of West Virginia University’s Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. “You don’t know what you’re buying. People may think they’re buying something that’s just an opiate, but it may have fentanyl in it, and it may have cocaine.”

    Between 2012 and 2016, 14 people in Massachusetts with a history of substance use developed an unusual amnestic syndrome that included acute, complete, and bilateral hippocampal lesions on MRIs.

    Haut and his colleagues studied the case of an additional patient: a 30-year-old man who was transferred from a local hospital in Maryland to a tertiary medical center in West Virginia for persistent memory impairment. The researchers used laboratory testing and neuroimaging to support the theory that fentanyl use may trigger amnesia in some individuals.

    “Further study will be required to confirm the fentanyl–amnesia link in a larger population and pinpoint the mechanisms behind it. The amnesia’s typical duration and frequency are also unknown,” WVU says in a statement.

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