The United States is facing a drug pandemic, and overdose is on the rise. In 2018, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were 67,367 deaths from drug overdose alone. Opioids are being held as the main cause of overdose deaths, primarily synthetic opioids. In fact, 69.5 percent of the reported overdose deaths in 2018 were due to opioid drugs. The type of drug used will show different overdose symptoms so it’s important to know the differences between them. It’s also important to know that all drugs can cause an overdose, not just opioids, or what would be considered “illegal substances”.
To begin, what is an overdose? Overdose is defined as using more of a drug than your body is able to cope with. Prescriptions and alcohol are just as probable if used in a way your body can not handle. The best way to avoid an accidental overdose is to not mix drugs. Some prescriptions are not meant to be taken with alcohol or other medications, so make sure you talk with your doctor before you begin taking certain medications.
If you or know someone who is on the verge of overdosing, call us today at (912) 214-3867 and get them the help they need. Don’t hesitate to call if you think you have overdosed. If you begin feeling the symptoms of overdose, call 911, and get emergency help now.
Immediate Overdose Help and Basics
During an overdose not every symptom will occur and the type of drug used will influence those symptoms. However, if you have any symptoms of an overdose after taking a large quantity of a substance, seek medical attention as soon as possible by calling 911. Drug or alcohol overdose can lead to death if not addressed in a timely manner. Your treatment for drug overdose will be more effective if you get emergency assistance sooner. For the sake of your loved ones and your own life, do not wait for symptoms to get worse.
If you drink or use substances, it is important to know the symptoms of overdose. According to the CDC, the signs of overdose include the following:
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of consciousness
- trouble breathing and walking
- aggression and violence
- enlarged pupils
- body tremors
It’s important to know what the signs of an overdose are. Opioids are the most common drug involved in an overdose. Factors that play a role in overdose and death include the following:
- Combining opioids with alcohol and other illegal substances.
- Taking high daily doses of prescription opioids.
- Taking far more opioids than prescribed.
- Using illegal opioids like heroin or illicitly manufactured drugs like fentanyl.
- Health conditions such as sleep apnea, kidney, or liver failure.
- Being over the age of 65.
Anyone who uses alcohol, prescription medications, or illegal substances can overdose since the process of overdosing overwhelms the brain and interrupts the body’s ability to breathe naturally.
What are the Risks of Overdose?
The process of overdosing is dangerous, and several risk factors play into the severity. As a loved one, you can help prevent the chance of overdose, but what are the signs of an overdose and what should you be looking for? It’s important to acknowledge that an overdose is not always on purpose and can be accidental. Simply, an overdose is when the body and brain cannot function properly, leading to harmful effects or death.
Factors such as the history of using a medication, what drug was used, and how much was taken all influence the overdose symptoms. If you are trying to help someone overcome drug abuse, knowing these risks can help reduce the chance of an overdose, even be able to help prevent them from dying. While knowing what overdose is and what risks can be avoided, know how to help someone who has overdosed is just as critical.
Influences of Drug Overdose
The CDC emphasizes four major influences that impact the risk of drug overdose symptoms.
- Improper Storage of Prescription Opioids: Locking up prescriptions is important to prevent accidental overdose, but also keeping children safe. Many accidental overdose cases are small children who gain access to their parents’ medication and mistake it for something else. Place all prescription medications high and away from children’s sight. If you have a medicine cabinet in your home, that is one of the preferred ways of keeping medication away from young ones.
- Not Knowing or Following Dosage Instructions: If you don’t have a history of drug abuse, it is still very easy to overdose on prescribed medication. Following your doctor’s explicit dosage for your prescription is important to avoid an accidental overdose. It’s also important to take your medication at the recommended times in order to not overwhelm your body.
- History of Drug Misuse: If you have a history of misusing prescription drugs, you are at a higher risk of overdose. Using drugs on a regular basis can also cause addiction, meaning you are more likely to take more to control that addiction, which will lead to an overdose. It’s also important to recognize if you mixed different drugs, use multiple drugs or consume them with alcohol. These all play into the risk of overdosing.
- History of Mental Disorders: Having one or more mental disorders will play a factor. Depression specifically can be a danger because suicidal thoughts will trigger the desire to fatally overdose. If your mental illness is not treated properly, you are at a higher risk.
How to Help Someone Who Overdosed
In order to determine if someone is showing signs of overdose, the CDC says to look for the following symptoms in victims:
- Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
- Falling asleep or loss of consciousness
- Slow, shallow unsteady breathing
- Choking or gurgling sounds
- Limp body
- Pale, blue or cold skin
No matter if the person is just experiencing a high or has overdosed, the CDC says to treat the situation as if it is an overdose. The organization recommends five actions to take when working with someone who has overdosed.
- Call 911 immediately.
- Administer naloxone if readily available in your situation.
- Try to keep the person awake and breathing.
- Lay the person on their side to prevent choking.
- Stay with the person until the emergency services arrive at your location.
As the CDC recommends, calling 911 and getting an ambulance is important to ensure the safety of someone who has overdosed. Do not worry about police involvement. They will only get involved if absolutely needed. The International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) supports the CDC is calling an ambulance to help the victim. The organization emphasizes that you shouldn’t only call an ambulance for some that are unconscious but also for those who are experiencing a seizure, severe headache, chest pain, breathing difficulties, or extreme paranoia or agitation. They will not need to show every symptom, but one or two should warrant a 911 call. It’s also important to not let the victim “sleep it off” as can lead to breathing difficulties which can lead to death if not helped. Getting treatment is the best possible way to avoid another overdose, so getting the right help immediately is important.
Treatment for Overdose
Treatment will vary from person to person. Like rehabilitation for other forms of drug abuse, it will need to be personalized to an individual’s needs. When on the spot treatment is needed, it is vital to provide as much information to the emergency professionals as you can. The CDC lays out several methods that are often taken to help treat an individual.
- Clearing the airway or inserting a breathing tube when breathing is a problem.
- Providing activated charcoal, which will react in the digestive tract, absorbing the drug in the body.
- Pumping the stomach to quickly remove the drug.
- Provide intravenous fluids to speed up the body’s process of removing the substance.
Another common form of treatment is a medication called naloxone. Naloxone may sound like a cure for a drug overdose, but do not be fooled, it is a temporary fix that is used before getting the proper treatment. According to the IOAD, naloxone is used by emergency services to help a person under an opioid overdose. It will cause the body to go into withdrawal and allow the proper treatment to take place. However, once naloxone has been used the body will crave more drug use which can cause a second overdose, but it can occur in a more severe fashion. Additionally, naloxone doesn’t remain in the body system as long as opioid drugs, so the chances of overdosing again are higher.
There are steps that can be taken to avoid an overdose. One of the best methods to avoid an accidental overdose by removing opportunities from the home. It’s important to use prescription drugs as directed. Don’t take more than directed or take them at a random time. Your doctor will also provide the specific information you need to avoid an overdose of any prescribed medications.
Witnessing someone overdose or finding someone who has overdosed can be an extremely frightening event. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid it. Be sure to use prescriptions as directed and don’t mix and match drugs without consulting your doctor first. Additionally, alcohol should never be used to take medication and does not interact well with other drugs. Remember that overdose can be accidental so make sure that medication is located in a safe place that young children can’t get to. Furthermore, while treatment for overdose can be done in a rehabilitation environment, most of the time it will be on the spot and performed by medical professionals.
Do not hesitate to call emergency services if you or someone you know is experiencing an overdose. Not all overdose symptoms need to be present to justify calling 911 – it’s actually in your best interest to do so. If you are struggling with drug abuse and want help, call us at (912) 214-3867 today. There is no reason to continue fighting drug abuse when you can begin recovery. Do not lose hope! Get the help you deserve and begin the path to sobriety.
Written By: Tristan Kutzer
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