Does Heroin Affect Your Memory?

Clear Treatment

Among heroin addicts there is an unofficial term used to describe heroin-related memory loss. That term is “CRS” which is an acronym for “Can’t Remember S__t.” Not surprising, the scientific evidence backs up the term.

For instance, we know two things for sure; that heroin use clouds mentation and impairs brain function. Since memory is a function of the brain, it is reasonable to assume that heroin use might cause memory loss. Yet the question remains. How does heroin affect your memory? That is what this page will answer.

What is Memory?

Memory is a cognitive function that perceives, stores and retrieves information. Your brain stores information either as short-term or long-term memory. What’s so fascinating is that memory always begins as short-term memory. Yet if short-term memory is deemed important, for whatever reason, your brain refiles it as long-term memory.


Short-term Memory

Hold on to your socks because the following information might surprise you. Short-term memory can only store about 7 letters and 9 numbers (plus or minus 2) for about 15-30 seconds. Then it either discards the information or refiles it as long-term memory. This is why you can remember 7-digit phone numbers with relative ease, but find it almost impossible to remember 10-digit phone numbers.


Long-term Memory

Long-term memory is divided into two types: declarative (knowing what) and procedural (knowing how).

Declarative memory has to do with retrieving facts, i.e. knowledge of the universe, like the earth revolves around sun; and events, like Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton during the November 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Procedural memory has to do with retrieving the skills necessary to perform a task, such as driving a car or using a telephone. Procedural memories are acquired through repetition, and are composed of automatic behaviors so deeply embedded in our mind that we carry them out without thinking.


Heroin and Memory Loss


There is strong evidence that emotionally-charged events lead to the creation of vivid long-lasting memories. Think about that for a minute. Let’s say you were swimming in the ocean and a shark bit your leg. That would be an emotional event. Would you agree? You might never forget that event either. In fact, it’s likely, from that day forward, anytime you visited a beach you would develop a funny feeling and recall vivid memories about a shark biting your leg.


Memory Circuits

There are specific mechanisms in your brain that help you learn, such that perception, retention and recall are not random, but rather precise circuits, that predetermine where and how information is stored.

If a shark bites your leg, a storm of data will run through one or more of your memory circuits. In this way, the information teaches you to avoid sharks. We now know that the hippocampus→ hypothalamus→ anterior thalamic nucleus→ cingulate gyrus→ neocortex is one of the brain’s primary memory circuits (Papez circuit).


Norepinephrine and Adreno-Receptors

Emotional arousal leads to activation of the Locus Coeruleus (LC), which is the brain’s primary producer of norepinephrine (NE). Whenever we have emotions, various amounts of NE are released into the brain. The more emotional an event becomes the more NE that gets released. NE has been shown to activate adreno-receptors atop neurons within memory circuits. The hypothesis being that neurons with activated adreno-receptors function better. In other words, better functioning neurons within a memory circuit enhance your memory.


Memory Loss

Your brain typically uses norepinephrine (NE) to help you breathe, pump blood, stay awake and remember. Yet staying awake and memory seem to be its secondary function. We know now that heroin directly suppresses NE, which is why you’ll likely breathe less, have fewer heart beats, fall asleep and forget a lot if you use heroin. In other words, if you consume heroin, you have less NE available for the adreno-receptors within your memory circuits, and consequently, your brain becomes less capable of perceiving, retaining and recalling information, ergo poor memory.


Will My Memory Improve After I Quit?

Fortunately, heroin related memory loss may only be temporary. Much of the evidence indicates that if you achieve a year of abstinence, your ability to perceive, store and retrieve information shows little to no-noticeable impairment. This is good news, but it’s only good news if you stop. Otherwise you’ll keep on forgetting.

Natural Treatment to Improve Your Memory

If you want to improve your memory, you are going to have to improve your brain. The best way to improve your brain is to give it what it needs and avoid the things that may harm it.

What Your Brain Needs

  1. Oxygen:  The brain needs oxygen rich blood. One of the best ways to increase oxygen to the brain is through aerobic exercise. That also means you should not smoke cigarettes or anything else for that matter.
  2. Mental Exercise:  The brain needs mental exercises to stay sharp. One of the best ways to increase your brain’s sharpness is to exercise it by reading and writing. You might like to read a book or write a letter or do crossword puzzles.
  3. Nutrients:  The brain needs nutrients. Some of the best brain nutrients are blueberries, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and flax), nuts “(walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts) and salmon.
  4. Sleep:  The brain needs adequate rest and the best way to give the brain adequate rest is through proper sleep hygiene. Go to sleep at the same time every night. Take a short 30-60 minute nap around 1pm everyday.