Dangers of Drug Overdose

Learn about the dangers of a drug overdose including signs and symptoms, what to do during an overdose, and available treatment options.

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Over the past twenty years, over 900,000 people have lost their lives to drug overdose in the United States. In 2020, the United States reported approximately 92,000 deaths due to overdose. Out of those lives lost to drug overdose, seventy-five percent had opioids in their system. The opioid epidemic and the disease of addiction are claiming many lives all over the world. Education, understanding, prevention, and treatment are essential to combat this public health crisis. 1

Drug overdose

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What Is Drug Overdose?

What is an overdose? Drug and medication overdoses can occur when a person takes more than the recommended or safe amount of something. Medication and drug overdoses can be intentional or unintentional. For instance, a child may accidentally take an adult’s prescribed medication. 2

What Does Overdosing Feel Like?

You may wonder what happens when you overdose and what it feels like. Someone who is overdosing can experience stomach pain, drowsiness, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, constipation, chills, headache, dry mouth, delirium, loss of motor control, and mental confusion. 3

Causes of Overdosing

A drug overdose can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the circumstances and specific drug involved. An overdose of pills or other substances can be caused by taking an extra dose of something, mixing substances, using medicine prescribed to someone else, or taking a drug to get high. 4

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Overdose

Since drug overdose and overdose of pills can be intentional or accidental, everyone must familiarize themselves with overdose symptoms. The following sections will highlight common drug overdose symptoms and the factors that affect OD symptoms.

Factors Affecting The Symptoms

Certain factors can increase a person’s risk of experiencing OD symptoms. If someone takes illegal substances or takes more medication than their healthcare provider prescribes, they are more likely to have overdose symptoms. Additionally, people that combine multiple medications or mix medicine and alcohol are at higher risk of a drug overdose. Health conditions can also affect overdose symptoms. 4

Commons Signs and Symptoms

A pale face, clammy skin, and limp body are all drug overdose symptoms and signs of overdose. If a person’s lips or fingernails turn blue or purple, they may need immediate drug overdose treatment. Other signs of overdose can be vomiting, lack of ability to speak or wake up, unusual breathing, or slowed heartbeat. 4

Dangers of Drug Overdose

When a person survives the effects of an overdose, there can be long-term health consequences. In the next section, we will explore what happens inside the body when a person shows signs of overdose.

What Happens Inside The Body During An Overdose?

Due to pill overdose effects on the body, the human brain can become overwhelmed and experience interruptions to natural bodily functions. During an overdose, the human body lacks its natural drive to breathe, resulting in brain damage and possibly death. 5

Long-Term Effects of An Overdose

If an individual survives drug overdose symptoms, they may experience long-term effects or other synonymous symptoms. The various long-term overdose side effects will be detailed below:

Liver Damage: Side effects of drug overdose can include permanent damage to the liver and kidney organs. 6 

Brain Damage: Non-fatal overdose side effects from restricted breathing can result in brain damage. 6 

Damage to The Heart: After a person receives drug overdose treatment, they may require additional treatment for damage to the heart. 6 

Neurological Consequences: Brain injury, altered mental status, and neurological consequences can all be overdose side effects.7

Higher Risk of Developing Emotional and Mental Problems: People struggling with substance use and overdose have a greater risk of experiencing emotional challenges and mental illness. 7  

Higher Risk of Drug Addiction: Once a person displays drug overdose symptoms or has received drug overdose treatment, it is more likely they will meet the clinical criteria for a substance use disorder. 7  

What Should Be Done During An Overdose?

Overdose symptoms
If a person displays signs of overdose, they are in immediate danger. Overdose side effects can be life-threatening and must be treated quickly. If you think someone is overdosing, call 911 right away. Next, administer drug overdose treatment in the form of naloxone if available. Naloxone is an effective drug overdose treatment that can quickly stop an opioid overdose.
While waiting for emergency medical personnel to arrive, try to keep the person on their side to prevent choking while helping them stay awake and breathing. Many people wonder how long it takes to recover from an overdose? Recovery timeframes vary from person to person and depend on many variables.

How to Prevent or Avoid An Overdose

Opioid and other drug overdoses are preventable. The following sections will describe steps one can take to avoid an overdose:

Practice Medicine Safety: To prevent overdose, individuals should take medications exactly as their healthcare provider prescribes. 

Avoid Drugs of Any Kind Unless Advised by A Doctor: Unless a doctor prescribes a medication or drug, it’s unsafe and could lead to an overdose. 

Do Not Keep Medications You No Longer Need: To avoid intentional and accidental overdoses, all unused medicine should be disposed of safely. 

Keep All Medicine and Drugs In A Secure Place: Safe storage of medicine where pets and children don’t have access is an excellent step toward overdose prevention. 

Be Careful When Taking Different Substances At The Same Time

Pain medication should never be combined with alcohol, illegal substances, or sleeping pills. When drugs are mixed, the effect is typically more substantial and unpredictable. Substances should only be taken with approval from a medical provider. 7

Begin Healing at Profound Treatment

If you or someone you care about is struggling with managing their substance use safely, it is recommended to schedule an addiction assessment.

Profound Treatment in Woodland Hills, California, offers a vast array of therapies and treatments to serve individuals in all stages of addiction. We are here to help you or your loved one achieve and maintain long-lasting, sustainable wellness and sobriety. For more information about treatment for addiction and overdose prevention, contact Profound Treatment today.

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