Author: Alex Thompson

Drug Overdose: Definition, Treatment, Prevention, and More

how to treat an overdose

When someone overdoses on a CNS depressant, their breathing usually slows or stops. Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants include opioids, sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics. These medicines can slow brain activity, which helps to treat anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions, and sleep disorders. You can get naloxone for free through discrete harm reduction programs like NEXT Distro or from a healthcare provider or pharmacy.

The FDA has approved a prescription treatment that can be used by family members or caregivers to treat a person known or suspected to have had an opioid overdose. Opioids include various prescription pain medications and illicit street drugs. An overdose is characterized by slowed breathing and heart rate and a loss of consciousness. Although Evzio can counter overdose effects within minutes, professional medical help is still needed. Opioid use can cause you to have shallow breaths and/or a slower rate of breathing (respiratory depression) and can lead to respiratory failure.

The most obvious way to tell if these symptoms indicate overdose is if you know you have taken drugs or have seen someone else take drugs. Getting medical help quickly can make a big difference in the effectiveness of drug overdose treatment. A drug overdose is taking too much of a substance, whether it’s prescription, over-the-counter, legal, or illegal. If you’ve taken more than the recommended amount of a drug or enough to have a harmful effect on your body’s functions, you have overdosed. The liver and the kidneys are organs at high risk following a drug overdose.

It’s important to receive training on how and when to use naloxone. Good Samaritan laws and similar legal protections exist across states to ensure you will not get into trouble for helping someone experiencing an overdose. These symptoms of stimulant overdose can lead to a seizure, stroke, heart attack, or death. If you have children in the house, make sure that all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, are kept well out of reach. Drug Overdose Immunity and Good Samaritan LawsPolicymakers are seeking solutions that will help curb use and overdose by expanding Good Samaritan immunity, and increasing naloxone access.

  1. If the person isn’t breathing, move them onto their left side to prevent aspiration of vomiting.
  2. In a hospital setting, healthcare providers order drug tests to diagnose opioid overdose.
  3. If you don’t know the person, yell and ask if they need help.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it attaches to opioid receptors in your body and reverses and blocks the effects of opioids already in your system. Naloxone can restore normal breathing within two to five minutes to a person who’s experiencing an opioid overdose. Opioid overdoses are medical emergencies that require quick diagnosis and treatment. Because of this, first responders and people who are trained to administer naloxone (Narcan®) mainly rely on symptoms and personal history to diagnose them. As the person experiencing an overdose is usually unconscious, providers rely on bystanders or loved ones to tell them if the person has a history of substance use. They may also find items or substances related to the overdose near the person.

Alcohol Overdose Symptoms & Risks

People can also die from opioid overdose when they (knowingly or unknowingly) use an opioid in combination with another substance, such as a sedative or stimulant. These combinations create a level of toxicity in your body that’s deadly. If you think someone you love may be using or misusing opioids, talk to your loved one about the dangers of opioids and try to connect them to medical resources.

Likewise, if the mental health issues that resulted in an intentional drug overdose are not treated, the individual remains at risk for more drug overdoses. It’s important to note that the effects of naloxone only work for 30 to 90 minutes, but after that time, a person can overdose again if opioids are still in their system. A person can also overdose within that timeframe if they have a substantially large amount of opioids in their system. That’s why it’s important to get help from emergency services and make sure they’re not alone even if they respond well to the first dose of naloxone.

Why can an opioid overdose cause death?

Ask the person questions calmly to try to keep them engaged. If you know the person, yell their name or try yelling something you know they wouldn’t like, to see if it arouses them. If you don’t know the person, yell and ask if they need help. Fentanyl is an opioid that’s 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. People who make heroin often add nonmedical fentanyl to it to increase its potency (strength).

how to treat an overdose

Popular prescription stimulants include Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin. The doses for recreational heroin use and the doses that lead to overdose often have little difference. Since 2000, the number of opioid-related deaths has risen by 200 percent. If you’d like to learn more about helping drug addicts, check out our in-depth interview with Catherine Boswell, PhD. Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio)The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) created an online resource to raise awareness about naloxone.

How to Reverse an Overdose

If you suspect someone may be overdosing, do not leave them alone. Seek immediate medical help by calling 911 or taking them to an emergency unit. If you aren’t sure if someone is overdosing, it’s best to act as if they are by seeking emergency help. Even if someone survives a severe alcohol overdose, permanent or long-lasting brain damage can occur. If the individual has lost consciousness, try to wake them for a response.

If you suspect a person has overdosed, but you’re not sure what substance they’ve used, you should still give them a dose of naloxone just in case they have opioids in their system. If they didn’t take opioids, naloxone is still safe — it just won’t have any effect. The main cause of death from an opioid overdose is respiratory failure (you stop breathing). This happens because the opioids negatively affect the part of your brain that’s responsible for breathing.

BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor. Drug abuse carries the risk of severe side effects, including overdose. Police officers, emergency medical technicians and first responders carry and have training on how to give naloxone. In most communities, any person can get and carry naloxone on them, not just medical professionals.

“Too much” varies from person to person depending on their opioid tolerance and the potency (strength) of the opioid they’re using. If you use prescription drugs, be sure to use them only as directed by your doctor. Do not combine any medications without first asking your doctor if it’s safe.