A drug overdose happens when
you take too much of a drug, whether it is an illegal substance, and over the
counter medication, or a prescription drug. An overdose can lead to serious
medical symptoms, including death. Drug overdoses may be intentional, but they
can also be accidental. The severity of an overdose depends on the drug, the
amount taken, and the individual.
If you suspect anyone of
having overdosed, you need to seek immediate medical attention. The faster you
act, the better the person’s chances of recovery. Emergency medical care
administered to someone who has overdosed varies depending on the situation,
but may save a life.
Symptoms of a Drug Overdose
The symptoms of a drug
overdose may vary depending on the person, the drug, and the amount taken.
However, there are some universal signs that you can look for. The first and
most obvious sign of an overdose is actually witnessing someone take more of a
drug than is recommended. Other common signs include the following:
- nausea and
- loss of
- aggression or
- enlarged pupils
Who Is at Risk for an Overdose?
There are several factors
that may make someone more at risk for a drug overdose. Someone who abuses a
drug, either an illegal street drug or a prescription drug, is at greater risk
for overdose. Someone who abuses drugs and has overdosed in the past is
especially at risk. Another risk factor is using multiple drugs or mixing
different drugs with each other or with alcohol.
Mental health problems can
also be risk factors for a drug overdose. Anyone with depression, or who
exhibits suicidal behaviors, thoughts, or actions, or who engages in high-risk
activities, is at a greater risk for an intentional or an accidental overdose. Someone
with these mental health issues who is not getting treatment is at higher risk.
Treatment for a Drug Overdose
Treatment for a drug
overdose varies depending on each situation. Regardless of the type of drug,
the amount taken, or the individual involved, you should always seek medical
help if you suspect someone is overdosing. It is always better to be safe than
sorry in these situations.
treating an overdose victim can best provide care if they know what the patient
ingested and how much. However, this is not always possible. There are some
general treatment strategies that can be used:
- If the patient
is not breathing or struggling to breathe, the first step may be to clear the
airway. Intubation with a breathing tube may be needed.
charcoal may be given to the patient. This acts in the digestive tract to
absorb the drug.
- Vomiting may be
induced to remove the substance from the stomach.
- The stomach may
also be pumped to remove any remaining drug still in the stomach.
- The patient may
be given intravenous fluids, which further helps to eliminate the substance
from the body.
If the medical care givers
know what drug the patient took, an overdose antidote may be given. For certain
narcotic drugs, like heroin, there is a medication called naloxone that can
reverse the effects of overdose.
Prevention of a Drug Overdose
There are many ways in which
drug overdoses can be prevented. If you have children in the house, make sure
that all medications, both prescription and over the counter, are kept well out
of reach. 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 is safe to do so. Do not mix alcohol with prescription drugs without
checking with your doctor first.
Someone who is struggling
with depression or suicidal thoughts should be given psychiatric care. Always
take seriously any threats of suicide or behaviors that seem suicidal.
For those who abuse drugs,
quitting is the best way to prevent an overdose. Do not mix different drugs or mix
drugs with alcohol. Understand that inhaling or injecting drugs causes them to
get to the brain more quickly. This increases the risk of overdose. Never use
drugs alone, as doing so increases the chances of dying from an overdose.
Outlook for a Drug Overdose
The outlook for someone who
has overdosed on drugs depends on the situation. It is easy to die from an
overdose, but getting emergency medical attention immediately reduces the odds
of dying. Many people who overdose fully recover and have no ill health
effects. Others may recover, but have organ damage as a result of the overdose.
This can include damage to the kidneys or the liver.