This led her to study fentanyl-induced dementia, which is documented in a 2018 report in the New England Journal of Medicine and observed in a cluster of patients in Massachusetts. In some people, fentanyl kills neurons in the hippocampus – an area of the brain that is already susceptible to oxygen deprivation that occurs during overdoses – causing the cells to spiral out of control.
Because the syndrome is so rare, she encountered some doctors who were skeptical about the connection between fentanyl and dementia. The book traces how others, such as Jade Brash, medical director of the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea, Massachusetts, were pursuing answers, which ultimately confirms how opioids can damage the hippocampus.
“This is the hero of Alzheimer’s researchers and neuroscientists. We owe a debt of gratitude to them, because I think there is no cure, at least the cure, ”she says.
Aguirre, who is currently working on a medical fiction book, credits MIT with his desire to make that leap. “Just being able to survive there convinced me that eventually, if you work hard enough, you’ll find things,” she says.