Signs of an Overdose and What You Can Do in an Emergency

Signs of an Overdose and What You Can Do in an Emergency
  • Opening Intro -

    It can be terrifying when you realize or suspect someone has taken a drug overdose.

    Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, but staying calm and taking quick action can save a life.


Knowing what to do in a situation like this can mean the difference between life and death.

Signs of a Drug Overdose

Not all drug overdoses cause immediate symptoms and someone may be conscious for hours before an overdose is apparent. Damage to the body can even continue without anyone knowing an overdose has happened. The following signs can indicate someone has taken an overdose:

  • Lack of balance or coordination:
    Someone who has overdosed may remain conscious but display a lack of balance and coordination as well as slurred speech.
  • Trouble breathing:
    Someone who has overdosed may struggle to breath or have shallow, labored breathing. Shallow breathing is often a sign of a depressant overdose such as fentanyl, heroin, or oxycodone. Depressants can cause gurgling or snoring sounds due to a blocked airway.
  • Seizures:
    Someone who has overdosed on an amphetamine or stimulant may experience seizures and can exhibit shaking, or rolled back eyes.
  • Psychotic reactions:
    Stimulant overdose can cause psychotic reactions like paranoia, delusions, and talking very quickly.
  • Blue lips or nails:
    This is often a symptom of an opioid overdose and should be noted in conjunction with other symptoms.
  • Unconsciousness:
    Do not leave someone to sleep off an overdose. According experts at in Alcohol Treatment in Orange County, passing out can be a sign of alcohol poisoning, stimulant overdose, or depressant overdose.
  • Vomit:

    Vomiting is a clear sign of overdose.

What You Can Do

If you suspect someone has overdosed, the first step is to remain calm. If the person is unconscious, try to get a response. If they do not respond, put them in a recovery position so they do not choke and call an ambulance. While people are often scared to call 911 for fear of police involvement, it may be a matter of life or death. Call 911 if someone is:

  • Unconscious
  • Having a seizure
  • Experiencing difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Displays extreme paranoia, confusion, or agitation

Do not give a person who is overdosing anything to eat or drink as it may make the situation worse. Do not allow them to sleep, put them under a shower, or encourage them to throw up, as they may choke. Someone who has overdosed on an opioid or opiate can be revived with Naloxone or Narcan. Anyone who has been revived with naloxone should be warned about the very real danger of taking more drugs as they can prompt a second overdose. 

An overdose is a sign that your loved one or friend may be suffering from an addiction. After treatment, you may want to talk to your friend about getting help at an addiction recovery center.

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