Author: Charles Frank

Naloxone DrugFacts National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA

how to treat an overdose

When experiencing an overdose, breathing can slow to the point of death. Giving naloxone to someone who has overdosed restores normal breathing, by reversing the effects of opioids. Sometimes, an overdose is the wake-up call someone needs to realize they have a substance use problem. Other times, understanding the risks involved with overdoses can encourage someone to seek help. Regardless of the reason, one of the best ways to avoid a potentially fatal drug overdose is to stop using substances that can cause one.

how to treat an overdose

In many cases, a person who overdoses generally recovers completely and without lasting physical disability. Risk factors for drug overdose are those that would make someone more likely to abuse drugs, or more likely to accidentally take the incorrect medication or take the wrong dose of a medication. All systems used by first responders deliver the stated dose of naloxone and can be highly effective in reversing an opioid overdose. Study findings released in March 2019 suggests that the FDA-approved naloxone devices deliver higher blood levels of naloxone than the improvised nasal devices.

Each person responds differently, and reactions are hard to predict. Many people who are directed to go to the emergency department may not develop any physical signs of poisoning. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends co-prescription of naloxone for some patients who take opioids. In some states, you can get naloxone from a pharmacist even if your doctor did not write you a prescription for it. It is also possible to get naloxone from community-based distribution programs, local public health groups, or local health departments, free of charge. Opioid overdose can occur even with prescription opioid pain relievers and medications used in treating SUD such as methadone and buprenorphine.

When Should You Call a Doctor over a Suspected Drug Overdose?

Two examples are carbon monoxide poisoning and mushroom poisoning. The decision on which form of naloxone to use or carry can depend many factors such as cost, availability, and comfort level. Everyone who suffers an overdose needs to be seen by his or her doctor for follow-up. In part this is to ensure that there are no delayed injuries to any organ system.

how to treat an overdose

Drug dependence occurs with repeated use, causing the neurons to adapt so they only function normally in the presence of the drug. The absence of the drug causes several physiological reactions, ranging from mild in the case of caffeine, to potentially life-threatening, such as with heroin. Some chronic pain patients are dependent on opioids and require medical support to stop taking the drug. If you misuse drugs, quitting is the best way for you to prevent a drug overdose. Know that certain ways of taking drugs can be riskier than others. Inhaling or injecting drugs may cause them to get to your brain more quickly and also increases your chance of using an amount that can severely harm you.

To prevent accidental overdoses, medications, even over-the-counter pain relievers and vitamins, must be kept in a safe, secure place. Intentional overdoses are harder to prevent, unless the underlying problems are addressed. Unintentional, illicit drug overdose is a serious problem best solved by getting the person away from access to the illicit drug (see Drug Dependence and Abuse). Overdoses of drugs or chemicals can be either accidental or intentional.

Why carry naloxone?

It is also to make sure that prevention against a recurrence is in place. If you have children in the house, make sure that all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, are kept well out of reach. Ask your practitioner or pharmacist if you have questions or are unsure of how to take your medication. You can order a bilingual wallet card from the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse that contains simple instructions for recognizing and reversing an overdose using naloxone. If you have a problem with drug abuse, you may see an addiction specialist and a counselor to help deal with your addiction.

  1. Intentional overdoses are harder to prevent, unless the underlying problems are addressed.
  2. Our evidence-based approach to treatment can give you the tools and resources needed to end substance use, reduce the risk of relapse and maintain lifelong recovery.
  3. Using high amounts of a substance for a prolonged period often leads to tolerance.
  4. Overdoses are a common occurrence in people who have a substance addiction.

The first part involves treating the more long-term effects of an overdose. For example, if someone overdoses on opioids and stops breathing for several minutes, the initial overdose care is technically over once the opioid is eliminated from the person’s system. However, going without breathing for several minutes could lead to brain damage that requires additional treatment following the initial overdose treatment. Because ER visits for drug overdoses are so common, hospitals are very experienced in treating overdoses and preventing life-threatening complications. Overdose treatment varies significantly based on the drugs that are used, but the chances of surviving an overdose are much higher when someone receives professional emergency treatment in an ER. An emergency-medicine specialist in a hospital’s emergency department treats a drug overdose.

Drug Overdose Treatment

More than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses from April 2020 to 2021, an increase of 28.5% from the prior year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you or someone you know is using a specific drug, you should be familiar with the overdose symptoms of that drug. Learn more about the overdose symptoms of certain types of drugs, including depressants like opioids and stimulants like cocaine. An overdose is when you take more than a normal or recommended amount of a substance. Overdoses may be accidental, such as when children get into a parent’s medication.

Patients with insurance should check with their insurance company to see if this medicine is covered. Patients without insurance can check the retail costs at their local pharmacies. Some drug companies have cost assistance programs for patients unable to pay for it.

What Is the Medical Treatment for a Drug Overdose?

Using high amounts of a substance for a prolonged period often leads to tolerance. When someone has developed a tolerance, they will need higher and higher doses of a substance to obtain the same effects. This can cause someone to use too much of a drug while trying to obtain a better high. Treatment will be dictated by the specific drug taken in the overdose. Information provided about amount, time, and underlying medical problems will be very helpful. The cost varies depending on where you get the naloxone, how you get it, and what type you get.

Naloxone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent opioid overdose. Check with your healthcare provider on how to obtain naloxone in your state. If you or someone you know is at increased risk for opioid overdose, especially those struggling with opioid use disorder (OUD), you should carry naloxone and keep it at home. Because you can’t use naloxone on yourself, let others know you have it in case you experience an opioid overdose. Naloxone works to reverse opioid overdose in the body for only 30 to 90 minutes. Because of this, it is possible for a person to still experience the effects of an overdose after a dose of naloxone wears off.

If a child overdoses, depending on the circumstances, Child Protective Services personnel may be involved. If a suicide attempt was the reason for the overdose, psychiatry services may need to be consulted. The second part of post-treatment involves helping the overdose patient avoid using drugs again and experiencing another overdose.

How to respond to an overdose using Naloxone

The very first step of overdose treatment will always involve determining what substances are causing the overdose. Ideally, the patient or someone with them will be able to tell the hospital what was being used. However, if the person is by themselves and unable to speak coherently, the medical team will have to make an educated guess based on the symptoms. In cases where the substance is unknown, the hospital may treat multiple possibilities at the same time to ensure that the correct treatment is provided. The way that hospitals treat overdoses will vary based on the substance causing the overdose. Each drug or chemical has a different effect on the body, and treating these effects requires understanding what is actually causing the overdose symptoms.