A drug overdose involves using too much of a substance whether it is an over-the-counter, a prescription, a legal or an illegal drug. Drug overdoses can be intentional or accidental. When you have consumed more than the advised dosage of a drug or an amount that has a detrimental influence on the functioning of your body, you’ll likely experience an overdose.
An overdose has the capacity to lead to severe medical problems, even death. The seriousness a drug overdose’s effects will vary depending on the amount taken, the drug and the medical and physical history of the individual who is overdosing.
Determinations of Risk
Numerous factors can raise an individual’s chance of experiencing a drug overdose:
Storing drugs in an improper way
Inadequately stored drugs will become an easy target for kids. They are curious and may end up putting whatever they find in their mouths. Kids could easily take a drug and overdose on it when a medication bottle isn’t sealed properly or a medicine cabinet isn’t locked tight.
Not understanding or adhering to dosage directions
Adults can overdose on medication when they aren’t following the directions. Consuming too much or taking a dose sooner than you’re supposed to can lead to an overdose with a drug that would be safe for you otherwise.
History of addiction or misuse
Misusing prescription drugs intentionally or taking illicit drugs will place you at a heightened risk of overdosing, particularly when misuse or illegal use is a usual occurrence for you or you are prone to becoming easily addicted to a substance. The danger grows when you are using multiple drugs, mixing various drugs or using drugs together with alcohol.
Background of mental problems
Mental issues can be a risk factor for drug overdoses. Suicidal thoughts and depression can trigger the onset of an overdose. This is particularly evident when such symptoms aren’t being treated proactively.
Signs and Symptoms Indicating an Overdose
The indications of a drug overdose can vary depending on the individual, the drug and the amount consumed. Some universal signs to look for to recognize an overdose include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
- Having difficulty walking
- Breathing problems
- Enlarged pupils
- Being aggressive or violent
- Hallucinations or delusions
Some symptoms are specific to the drug in question. For example, someone who overdoses on an opioid might feature blue or cold skin and tiny pupils and be completely unresponsive. A stimulant overdose often involves paranoia, seizures, chest pains, and severe headaches. An individual who overdoses on a hallucinogen like LSD might experience a change in heart rate and a very high body temperature.
It is best to find medical help as soon as possible when overdose symptoms manifest themselves or you recognize an overdose occurring in another person. The best and most evident way to determine if these signs indicate an overdose is a familiarity with the symptoms because of your own drug use or that of another person close to you. Getting medical attention right away makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of treating a drug overdose.
Treating drug overdose depends on each specific circumstance. Remembering the quantity of the drug that was ingested is one extremely helpful piece of data for treatment purposes. This sort of knowledge might not always be available, though. Treatment methods that first responders and health care providers might generally utilize include:
- Administering activated charcoal, which serves its use in the digestive tract to eradicate the drug through absorption
- Inducing vomiting to get rid of the drug from the individual’s stomach
- Freeing up the airway or utilizing a breathing tube if there’s an issue with breathing
- Pumping the stomach to eliminate the drug
- Administering intravenous fluids in order to help the body speed up the removal process of the drug
A health care practitioner might have the ability to make use of an antidote in certain drug overdose cases. For example, the drug naloxone serves to help reverse the consequences of an opioid overdose.
Preventing an Overdose
It is possible to prevent a drug overdose. The best methods eliminate the chance of accidental overdoses happening in the first place.
When children are present in your home, be sure that all medication, both over-the-counter and prescription, is stored completely out of reach.
When prescription drugs are taken, make sure you use them just as your doctor has directed. Don’t mix any medications without first talking to your doctor about the implications. You shouldn’t combine alcohol with a prescription drug, either.
When drugs are misused, completely stopping is your best approach when it comes to preventing a drug overdose. Keep in mind that some ways of consuming drugs are inherently riskier than other ways. Injecting or inhaling drugs might lead to them getting to the brain faster. This means your risk of taking a quantity that could severely damage you is greatly increased. When it feels as if you aren’t able to quit, speak to your physician or a counselor immediately. Many treatment programs exist that can aid you.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or depression, get in touch with your doctor or a therapist. A professional will make sure you’re receiving the psychiatric attention you deserve.
If someone you know has overdosed in an attempt at suicide:
- Dial 911 or your local emergency number.
- Wait with the individual until aid arrives.
- Get rid of any knives, guns, medications or anything else that could cause damage.
- Lend your ear, but avoid judging, arguing, threatening or raising your voice.
Overdose Facts and Figures
Deaths from drug overdoses are climbing according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. There were nearly three times the amount of deaths in 2014 due to prescription drug overdoses than the recorded numbers from 2001. The rate of deaths from prescription opioid pain pill overdoses increased nearly three and a half times during the period between 2001 and 2014. The number of benzodiazepine overdoses jumped from just over 1,000 in 1999 to over 11,000 in 2017.
When Should Medical Attention for a Suspected Drug Overdose Be Seek?
Your doctor, the emergency room of your local hospital or your regional poison center should have what’s needed to find out the severity of a presumed drug overdose. Advancement of any signs of a drug overdose necessitates accurate and immediate information regarding the particular drug name, the quantity of ingested drugs and how long it’s been since the drug was used. The bottle that the drug comes in will typically have all the needed information.
Certain medical facilities have the needed resources to take care of overdoses, but many others, especially facilities in rural areas, may not. Some doctors may tell people to go to the emergency room, but you should always call 911 in life-threatening conditions.
You may not know the cause of the overdose and whether it’s severe. When you aren’t able to get in touch with a trained professional over the phone to talk about the presumed overdose or you can’t reach the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222, it’s good judgment to bring the individual to the closest medical facility or emergency room as quickly as possible.
Exercise appropriate care as you’re dealing with an overdose. Every person will have a different response, and reactions can be tough to foretell. A lot of people who are told to visit the emergency room might not show any physical indications of drug poisoning while others grow considerably ill.
Approximately 47,000 drug overdose deaths happened in the U.S. due to opioids in 2014. This includes heroin as well as opioids, which killed over 28,000 people during the same year. Making sure an individual receives immediate medical care may help prevent death from an overdose.
Additional Risk Factors
Factors that increase the risk of a drug overdose include those that make an individual more susceptible to drug abuse or increase the chance of accidentally taking the wrong medication or using the wrong dosage. Factors that increase your chances of an accidental drug OD can include:
- Having a mental illness
- Using a lot of different medications
- Being very young or very old
Factors for a higher risk of a drug overdose in drug users include:
- Mental illness
- Low income
- Doctor shopping
- Taking a high daily dosage of medications
- Mixing of alcohol with drugs
- Injecting drug use
- Use of multiple drugs
- Use of street drugs
- A family history of overdose
- Use of drugs by yourself
Men are more likely to overdose than women because they’re more likely to misuse drugs. Those 45-54 years old are more likely to misuse opioids while those 25-34 years old are more likely to misuse heroin.
Additional Indications of a Drug Overdose
Drugs affect the entire body. Side effects are much more pronounced in overdoses, and different outcomes can occur that wouldn’t normally happen with the right prescribed dose; it depends on the drug and the person. Large overdoses with certain medications might show negligible effects while smaller overdoses of various other medications can lead to serious effects, even death. Taking only a single dose of specific medications has the potential to be deadly to a young child or an elderly individual. An overdose could worsen an individual’s chronic condition such as asthma or chest pains.
What Kind of Experts Treat Overdoses?
A nurse or physician working in a hospital’s emergency room will typically handle a drug overdose. When a child overdoses, the local child protective services department might be involved in certain cases. If suicide was the intention of the overdose, psychiatric help might be required.
If you have a history of drug misuse, it would serve you well to go to an addiction specialist as well as get therapy in order to address your addiction.
The Tests Physicians Use in Dealing With an Overdose
A review of an individual’s background and physical conditions will be applied in order to determine evidence of drug poisoning. The physician might order lab tests that check on the organ systems that are potentially being harmed from the drug overdose to form a proper diagnosis. People you’re close to are a vital source of information. These people can help the doctor with things like drug names and when the overdose happened. Drug levels may be measured in the blood. This depends on which drug was taken and why the overdose occurred. Analysis of the urine may be done alongside a drug screening.
Get Help If You’re Addicted
Speak with your doctor about any way you could help prevent potential drug overdoses and what you would need to do to get help. A lot of people who overdose go on to fully recover without any adverse health effects. Instead of taking your chances with treating an overdose after it’s occurred, your doctor will advise you that overdose prevention is the best option. Getting treatment for your addiction can stop the cycle of abuse and make it so that you don’t resort to attempting an overdose in the first place. Rehab centers, both inpatient and outpatient, can be found all across the country and can provide you with the treatment that you need to kick your addiction. Know that you are not alone and that sobriety is possible.