Josh Chandler | April 20, 2022

What Is Drug-Induced Amnesia? Things You Should Know

What Is Drug-Induced Amnesia?

Drug addiction is defined as a mental health condition where an individual engages in substance abuse that ultimately affects a person’s ability to function throughout day-to-day life and uphold commitments or responsibilities such as work, school, or family life. While the individual may recognize that their drug abuse has progressed over time to a point where their life has begun to see negative consequences, they refuse to take action to correct the issue. 

Amnesia, otherwise known as dissociative amnesia, is characterized by a loss of memory, including short-term and long-term memory loss often associated with a specific time point or memory. While amnesia alone is not associated with drug abuse, research has shown that prolonged drug abuse can result in significant memory loss, also known as drug-induced amnesia. When you engage in psychoactive drug use, it can create significant changes within the brain, causing memory lapses and also known as experiencing blackouts. This form of amnesia is temporary and often will return once your substance abuse stops. However, as we know, drug addiction’s power over a person is vital. The cycle of addiction can be challenging to get out of without the proper support leading many to experience prolonged bouts of drug-induced amnesia. 

For those individuals living with dissociative amnesia that begin abusing alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing further physical and emotional complications within their condition and life only increases. Individuals will often face ongoing struggles with social and romantic relationships, financial concerns or instability, and difficulty processing the original trauma that had led to developing dissociative amnesia. This can prove challenging for treatment as it is essential to focus on a dual diagnosis treatment model that will offer support in healing from your drug addiction while also gaining medical therapy for the trauma associated with amnesia to help patients completely heal from their amnesia. 

Click here to call Muse Addiction Center today. Our staff is available 24/7 to provide answers and begin the admissions process. Call (800) 426-1818.

Symptoms of Drug-Induced Amnesia

Drug addiction has many signs and indicators associated with it when someone is living with an active substance use disorder that fits the diagnosis criteria, just as amnesia can have some telltale signs and indicators related to it. Knowing how to assess and diagnose an individual living with drug-induced amnesia properly can prove to be a bit more challenging. 

Common signs and indicators of substance abuse are:

  • Having to increase the number of drugs or alcohol that you take to reach the same desired effect 
  • Expressing wanting to cut back or quit your use of alcohol and drugs but find you experience failed attempts 
  • Continued use of alcohol or drugs even after it begins to harm your relationships, work performances, and family commitments. 
  • Displaying a lack of engagement or enjoyment in activities or hobbies that once brought you joy 
  • Experiencing mental and physical health concerns due to your substance abuse but continuing to use alcohol or drugs anyways 
  • Engaging in alcohol or drug use in high risk or dangerous situations 
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms or intense alcohol or drug cravings when you stop using alcohol and drugs.

When you are experiencing drug-induced amnesia, you may be displaying some of these signs associated with a substance use disorder, and you be exhibiting some of these additional signs that indicate you may be experiencing amnesia:

  • Experiencing lapses in memory regarding times that you were engaging in drug or alcohol use 
  • Unable to remember specific details from memory, including the people, places, or things associated with that memory 
  • Some individuals may experience confabulation, which is the brain’s process of creating false memories to make up for the lapse in memory. 
  • Feeling confused and disassociated from reality after experiencing drug-induced amnesia. 
  • An impaired ability to learn or process new information 

Causes of Drug-Induced Amnesia 

Different drugs or substances can cause Drug-induced amnesia. It is important to note that drug-induced amnesia can occur within someone without the individual having a substance use disorder. It is a severe complication of drug and alcohol abuse and can occur even after taking drugs or alcohol for a brief period. There are instances that some prescription drugs will produce drug-induced amnesia even when you use the medications as directed. Prescription drug use has been known to trigger amnesia when used correctly and when misused when using prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines, opioid painkillers, sleep aid medications, and prescription dopamine agonists. There have been 12 cases since 2012 where individuals experienced long-term blackouts, or drug-induced amnesia, for up to a year after using prescription painkillers and narcotics. 

One of the most common substances that produce drug-induced amnesia is alcohol which is often called alcoholic blackouts. During these blackouts, individuals can still function throughout day-to-day life but have no recollection of what happened. Even after their use of alcohol stops and they sober up, individuals often still struggle to remember what had happened during their blackouts. 

While there are no set causes for general dissociative amnesia and often comes on with little or no warning after experiencing trauma within your life. Dissociative amnesia is usually an involuntary response to the trauma as a way for your brain to protect itself from the traumatic memories. 

However, drug-induced amnesia has one specific cause that creates the onset of symptoms of amnesia, which is engaging in alcohol or drug use. There are individuals at a higher risk of developing drug-induced amnesia, especially those engaging in heavy drinking or drug abuse for a long, extended period and often in large quantities or with increased frequency of use. 

Risks of Drug-Induced Amnesia

Just as addiction is unique to its users and developed for its own set of causes and risk factors that have influenced your drug and alcohol addiction. Each individual will have their own unique story and circumstances that have led to your substance abuse and increased the odds of developing an alcohol or drug addiction. The following are some common risk factors that have been shown to impact a person’s odds of developing substance use disorder and drug-induced amnesia:

  • Having impulsive character or personality traits 
  • Living with a co-occurring mental health disorder 
  • A family history of substance abuse 
  • Using highly addictive illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or meth 
  • Experimenting with alcohol and drugs at a young age 
  • History of turbulent family history or relationships 
  • Experiencing trauma throughout your childhood or enduring high-stress situations while growing up 
  • Feeling peer pressure to engage in substance abuse 
  • Surrounding yourself in a social circle that is surrounded by substance abuse 

If someone you know tries meth to compensate for their troubles, here are the signs to know whether they are having an allergic reaction:

Signs and Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction to Meth

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Living with an active drug or alcohol addiction while experiencing drug-induced amnesia is characterized as a co-occurring disorder. To treat both conditions thoroughly and adequately, patients need to participate in a dual diagnosis treatment program that focuses on substance use disorder and drug-induced amnesia as separate conditions. It will also explore how both your substance use disorder and drug-induced amnesia have impacted and influenced one another. 

It is common for individuals living with an active drug or alcohol addiction to be experiencing other co-occurring disorders, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Throughout your dual diagnosis treatment program, you will have the support of our addiction and mental health counselors, who will work with you to identify positive methods of managing your co-occurring disorder through natural, holistic practices to avoid turning to alcohol or drugs as a method of self-medicating. 

Treatment for Addiction and Drug-Induced Amnesia at Muse 

Muse Treatment Center offers patients a comprehensive approach to drug addiction treatment in Los Angeles that includes the latest in evidence-based addiction therapy methods that will support patients in overcoming their drug addiction through a whole-person integrated approach to treatment. Patients will work alongside our addiction counselors and on-site healthcare providers to address your experiences associated with memory loss and drug-induced amnesia. Throughout your time in addiction treatment, you will be monitored by our on-site healthcare providers, who will ensure that you remain physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy and stable throughout your healing journey. 

Patients will be supported through individual and group therapy processes to dive deeper into the root causes of their drug and alcohol use to ensure they can heal from their addiction. With the support of our addiction counselors, you will be able to overcome your substance use disorder while developing the tools to manage any triggers that may occur within your daily life. 

Contact Muse Treatment Center at (800) 426-1818 today to answer any questions about drugs that can cause your association with memory. Our compassionate team is waiting to hear from you to help get you on the path to healing and sobriety. 

Addiction,Drug Addiction,Mental Health,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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