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July 17, 2023

Signs of Overdose

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If you become aware of the signs of overdose, you can respond promptly and potentially save a life in the event of someone you know overdosing on drugs.

A drug overdose occurs when someone consumes a dangerous, toxic amount of drugs, and it requires immediate medical intervention. If you suspect an overdose, remain calm and call the emergency services.

The signs and symptoms of overdose can differ according to the type of drug involved.

Some signs are internal, only noticeable to the person experiencing the overdose, while others are external and can be observed by others. This guide will familiarize you with both types of signs. You will also discover:

  • What are the signs of an overdose?
  • What are 5 signs of an overdose?
  • What happens when you overdose?
  • What to do if someone is overdosing?

Who is Most at Risk for Overdose?

While anyone who uses drugs is potentially at risk of an overdose, certain people are more susceptible due to various factors. Understanding who is most predisposed to OD can help raise awareness and facilitate targeted prevention efforts. 

These groups are especially vulnerable to drug overdose:

  • Individuals with substance use disorders: People who struggle with addiction or dependencies are at an increased risk of experiencing an overdose. Drug tolerance levels can change over time, making it easier to accidentally consume a toxic amount of a drug.
  • People who use multiple substances: Using multiple substances simultaneously – combining opioids with benzodiazepines or alcohol, for instance – significantly raises the risk of an overdose. Mixing substances can have synergistic effects and intensify the depressive effects on the CNS (central nervous system), potentially leading to respiratory depression or other life-threatening complications.
  • Those with a history of overdose: Those who have previously survived an overdose are at a heightened risk of experiencing another OD. The period following an overdose can be particularly dangerous, as the person may be more vulnerable to subsequent overdose events.
  • Recent detoxification: Individuals who have recently been discharged from a detoxification facility are at an elevated risk of overdose. Tolerance levels can decrease during periods of abstinence, increasing the risk of overdose if the person resumes drug use at the same previous level.
  • Individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders: People who have co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are more exposed to the risk of overdose. Substance use may serve as a form of self-medication, and the combination of drugs and mental health conditions can increase the risk of overdose.
  • Anyone with a limited support system: Lack of a robust social support network can contribute to increased overdose risk. People who are isolated or lack access to resources, including addiction treatment and harm reduction services, may face greater challenges in preventing and responding to overdoses.
  • Young adults and adolescents: Young adults and adolescents experimenting with drugs or engaging in risky behaviors are at heightened risk of overdose. Inexperience with substances, peer pressure, and a sense of invincibility can contribute to unsafe drug use practices.

Anyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, can experience an overdose. This means that promoting overdose prevention strategies like education, naloxone distribution, and accessible addiction treatment services is vital to address the widespread impact of drug overdoses and save lives.

image of man head in hands representing symptoms of overdose

What are the Different Signs of an Overdose?

Being able to identify the signs and symptoms of overdose enables prompt intervention and could be lifesaving. The specific signs and symptoms of narcotic overdose can differ depending on the type of substance involved.

  • Remember: Drug overdose occurs when someone ingests an excessive amount of a substance or a combination of substances, triggering adverse effects on the functioning of their brain and body. The toxic overload overwhelms the body’s natural mechanisms, disrupting normal physiological processes. While drug overdose can have fatal outcomes, even non-fatal cases can cause significant short-term and long-term health repercussions.

We will now highlight the signs of drug overdose by specific substances.

1) Signs of Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl overdoses, fueled by its high potency, can have rapid and severe consequences. Signs of a fentanyl overdose include respiratory distress, extreme sedation, pinpoint pupils, cold and clammy skin, blue lips and fingernails, weak pulse, and confusion. If you suspect a fentanyl overdose, call emergency services immediately for life-saving medical attention.

2) Signs of Opioid Overdose

Opioid overdoses, whether from prescription painkillers or illicit substances like heroin, require swift intervention. Common indicators of an opioid overdose are respiratory depression, extreme drowsiness, pinpoint pupils, bluish skin and lips, slow heart rate, cold and clammy skin, and vomiting. If you suspect an opioid overdose, call emergency services right away and consider administering naloxone (Narcan).

3) Signs of Meth Overdose

Methamphetamine overdose can lead to serious health complications. Signs of a potential meth overdose include agitation, hallucinations, chest pain, difficulty breathing, seizures, and convulsions. If you suspect a meth overdose, call emergency services immediately to ensure timely medical assistance.

4) Signs of Heroin Overdose

Heroin, a highly addictive Schedule I narcotic, poses a significant risk of overdose. Signs of a heroin overdose include depressed respiration, extreme drowsiness, pinpoint pupils, bluish skin and lips, weak pulse, and muscle spasms. If you suspect a heroin overdose, call emergency services immediately for prompt medical intervention.

5) Signs of Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine, a potent stimulant, can trigger severe health effects, including overdose. Signs of a potential cocaine overdose include agitation, hallucinations, chest pain, difficulty breathing, seizures, and convulsions. If you suspect a cocaine overdose, call emergency services immediately to minimize life-threatening outcomes.

Overdose FAQs

What do I do if someone is overdosing?

If someone is overdosing, call 911 and request medical assistance. Stay with the person until the emergency responders arrive and provide them with all relevant information.

Should I use Narcan if someone is overdosing?

Yes, Narcan (naloxone) should be used if someone is overdosing on opioids. The prompt administration of Narcan can reverse the effects of opioid overdose, which could be life-saving.

When should you go to the ER for an overdose?

You should go to the ER for an overdose if the person is experiencing severe symptoms or the situation appears to be life-threatening. Signs that indicate the need for medical attention include chest pain, difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, and seizures. If in doubt, seek medical assistance.

A man sits on a couch with his hand on his face to represent what  happens when you overdose

Treatment for Drug Addiction

Drug addiction treatment can streamline recovery, and there are various options available to address individual needs and circumstances.

First, consider the following treatment delivery methods:

  • Inpatient rehab (residential rehab): Inpatient or residential treatment programs provide a structured environment where individuals live at a facility dedicated to addiction recovery for 30 to 90 days or more. Inpatient rehab offers intensive therapy, counseling, and medical support while minimizing exposure to triggers and temptations. Residential rehab is typically recommended for those with severe drug addictions, co-occurring mental health conditions, or unstable home environments.
  • Outpatient rehab: Outpatient treatment programs allow individuals to receive treatment while still living at home and maintaining their daily routines. These programs offer flexibility, as therapy sessions can be scheduled around work or school. More intensive forms of outpatient treatment are available in the form of IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs). Outpatient treatment is beneficial for those with a supportive home environment and mild to moderate addiction severity who require an affordable but effective route to recovery from drug addiction.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment: Many individuals struggling with addiction also have co-occurring mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Dual diagnosis treatment addresses both addiction and mental health disorders simultaneously, providing integrated care for improved outcomes.

Regardless of the intensity of the drug addiction treatment program, it is possible to access the following treatments:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment): Medications may be prescribed to facilitate the recovery process. FDA-approved medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone can help manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and prevent relapse for individuals with opioid addictions. MAT is also effective for treating alcohol use disorder. Other medications may be used to manage co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Behavioral therapies: Behavioral counseling and therapy are key components of addiction treatment. Individual therapy sessions help people explore the root causes of their addictions, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and establish strategies for relapse prevention. Group therapy provides support, encouragement, and a sense of community among peers in recovery. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), and MI (motivational interviewing) are evidence-based forms of behavioral therapy that are proven effective for treating addictions.
  • Holistic interventions: Some addiction treatment programs incorporate complementary therapies like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, art therapy, or adventure therapy. These holistic approaches aim to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of recovery, promoting overall well-being and personal growth.
  • Aftercare and relapse prevention: Successful recovery often requires ongoing support after completing an initial treatment program. Aftercare services like continuing therapy, support groups, and alumni programs, play a central role in maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse. Developing a strong aftercare plan is conducive to long-term recovery.

Remember, finding the right drug addiction treatment program is a highly individualized process. Consult with addiction specialists, healthcare professionals, or addiction treatment centers to determine the most suitable treatment options for your specific needs and goals.

A man looks out at a landscape to represent what to do if someone is overdosing.

Get Treatment for Drug Addiction at Gratitude Lodge 

At Gratitude Lodge in Southern California, you can engage with evidence-based drug addiction treatment. Our pet-friendly rehabs in Newport Beach and Long Beach, CA are dedicated to whole-body recovery from addiction and mental health issues.

By taking advantage of our medical detox program, you can withdraw from drugs as safely and comfortably as possible. After a week or so, you will be ready to shift into our 30-day inpatient program. All addiction treatment programs at Gratitude Lodge utilize the following interventions:

While drug addiction is incurable, almost all addictions respond positively to treatment. Place your trust in Gratitude Lodge and call 800-994-2184 today for immediate assistance.

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Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.
Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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