Author: Charles Frank

Opioid Overdose: How To Respond & Prevent Death

how to help someone who overdosed

It may happen accidentally or intentionally; both are emergencies. It can be difficult to determine if someone is overdosing, but erring on the side of caution can save a life. Naloxone can be administered to reverse an opioid overdose. If first responders suspect an opioid overdose, they’ll administer naloxone, a medication that treats opioid overdose. If the person’s symptoms improve with naloxone, it means they’ve experienced an opioid overdose. If the naloxone has no effect on them, their symptoms are due to something else.

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. The best ways to prevent opioid overdose are to improve opioid prescribing, reduce exposure to opioids, prevent use and misuse, and treat opioid use disorder. There are strategies that can help prevent overdose and support the health and well-being of communities. Stigma or the fear of stigma may stop someone from sharing their health condition with partners or family members.

how to help someone who overdosed

In a 2020 study, 75% of overdose deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid, including 62% that involved a synthetic opioid other than methadone, such as fentanyl. A person can still experience the effects of an overdose after a dose of naloxone wears off. Because of this, it’s essential to call 911 for the person so they can get immediate medical care.

Why can an opioid overdose cause death?

If you see these signs of overdose, do not abandon the person out of fear of getting in trouble. 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. It can be difficult to prevent an opioid overdose because you may not know the potency of the substances you’re using. 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).

Opioid use disorder is a medical condition — it requires care just like any other condition. An opioid overdose happens when opioids negatively affect the part of your brain that regulates breathing, resulting in ineffective breathing. A person experiencing an opioid overdose needs naloxone and immediate medical care to prevent death. 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.

By taking universal safety precautions, all law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS providers can safely administer naloxone for overdose reversal, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The resources listed below provide guidance for first responders. Naloxone is a safe medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids, including heroin and fentanyl. When an opioid overdose is suspected, Narcan (naloxone hydrochloride) should be administered as soon as possible. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Narcan Nasal Spray in March 2023 as an over-the-counter (OTC) emergency treatment for opioid overdose.

What Is an Overdose?

They may perform other forms of medical care other than naloxone, such as intubation to help with breathing. In a hospital setting, healthcare providers order drug tests to diagnose opioid overdose. They also perform other tests to assess the health of the person and to look for possible complications. Using any kind of opioid has the potential to result in opioid overdose, whether it’s a prescription or nonprescription opioid.

  1. An opioid overdose happens when opioids negatively affect the part of your brain that regulates breathing, resulting in ineffective breathing.
  2. This leads to respiratory depression (ineffective breathing) and can cause death if it isn’t treated in time.
  3. Opiates occur in nature, though they can still be very dangerous in their purified and concentrated forms.
  4. If you take a prescription opioid, it’s important to teach your family and friends how to respond to an overdose.

Stigma can be a major barrier to how well prevention and treatment programs work against the opioid crisis. People experiencing an opioid overdose need naloxone (commonly known by the brand name Narcan®). Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose if it’s given to the person quickly.

Afterward, you may experience many complicated emotions about the overdose, how you reacted, and what to do to prevent future overdoses. Know that medical and mental health community support is available, and you don’t need to go through this alone. An overdose (OD), or drug overdose, is when someone accidentally or intentionally consumes more than a safe or typical amount of a substance such as a prescription medication or drug. Knowing the signs and symptoms of an overdose and what to do if you think you or someone else may be overdosing is life-saving information. 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.

If you aren’t sure if someone is overdosing, it’s best to act as if they are by seeking emergency help. If you take a prescription opioid, it’s important to teach your family and friends how to respond to an overdose. Store the opioids safely where children and others can’t find or access them.

What is your role in preventing opioid-related overdoses?

It can be difficult for people who use opioids or other substances to know what to expect when using nonmedical forms of opioids. This is because when they’re not regulated medically, they often have varying levels of potency. Using unregulated opioids increases someone’s chances of overdose and death from overdose. This rise is due to the increased use of prescription narcotics as pain medication and the contamination of nonmedical opioids and other substances with highly potent opioids like fentanyl. OUD significantly contributes to overdose deaths among people who use illegal opioids or misuse prescription opioids.

Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids like illegally made fentanyl are currently the main cause of overdose deaths. Naloxone (Narcan) is the main emergency treatment for opioid overdose. 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.

About 75% of opioid overdoses are due to nonmedical use of synthetic opioids — mainly forms of nonmedical fentanyl. If taken differently than prescribed, opioids can cause death by slowing, and eventually stopping, a person’s breathing. However, quick response to an opioid overdose, including administering naloxone and calling for medical assistance, can prevent brain injury and death. Drug overdose is when a person ingests more the recommended, safe, or typical dose of a prescription medication, recreational drug, or illicit substance.

Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio)The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) created an online resource to raise awareness about naloxone. An overdose is when a person consumes “over” the recommended or typical dose of a substance. An overdose can be accidental (i.e., you were prescribed a dose of medication, and your body does not handle it as expected), or it may be intentional. 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. This article will explain what an overdose is, the signs and symptoms of overdose to watch for in yourself and others, and what to do in case of an overdose.

Substance use disorders, like opioid use disorder (OUD), have significantly impacted communities across America. Prevention activities help educate and support individuals, families, and communities and are critical for maintaining both individual and community health. 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 or someone you know uses opioids, it’s important to carry naloxone in case of an overdose. If you or a loved one has opioid use disorder, talk to a healthcare provider as soon as possible. A trained provider can help guide you to the treatment you need.