Fentanyl Overdose Survivors Are a Hidden Health Crisis

published on July 27, 2017 by Allison Tierney in VICE

Brain damage, paralysis, and organ failure are just a few of the lasting problems some OD survivors take with them.

Being brought back from the brink of death during an overdose might be a second chance at life, but the aftermath can lead to a host of health issues for the person who’s been saved. For Ken Davies in British Columbia, an overdose on fentanyl-laced cocaine this past New Year’s left him disabled, with a partial leg that he may have amputated in the future.

Dr. Keith Ahamad, a Vancouver-based addiction specialist who’s been working with people who use drugs for over 15 years, said that brain damage is another after-effect he sees happen with people who’ve survived an opioid OD. This can be as severe as what is known as being “brain dead,” but there’s “a massive spectrum of those people who are down for a significant amount of time and would have a brain injury from lack of oxygen to the brain,” including those who experience memory loss.

“I’ve seen so many patients who leave the hospital after an overdose… where everyone who knows them just knows that they’re not right, they’re not themselves anymore.”

A lack of oxygen from slowed breathing during an OD can also cause the body to go into a toxic state, affecting other vital organs. Conditions such as kidney failure can occur, which Davies experienced.

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