A Guide to Drug & Alcohol Overdose:
Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, & Statistics
A drug or alcohol overdose is a serious medical event that occurs when a chemical substance is consumed in amounts greater then what is safe for the human body. When referring to an accidental overdose, the meaning is that the amount taken was unknowingly greater than the amount recommended, or an unsafe dosage. An intentional overdose occurs when the dosage taken was done so on purpose.
There are numerous reasons why and ways in which an overdose can occur. As mentioned above, some are accidental and others are intentional. Accidental causes include accidentally ingesting a substance without knowing and taking a greater dose than intended. Intentional overdose causes include a suicide attempt and knowingly taking a greater dose of a drug than was prescribed. Causes that may be intentional or accidental include mixing drugs, consuming a pre-tolerance dose, and taking a substance with higher purity than normal.
As of 2017, opioids were the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., surpassing car accidents. Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, have recently become the #1 leading cause of overdose deaths. However, there are a number of drugs most often connected with cases of overdose. These include:
Being able to quickly recognize when an overdose is occurring is critical to preventing permanent consequences, such as permanent brain damage or death. Although symptoms may vary slightly depending on the individual’s circumstances and the substances used, the following are common signs of overdose and indications that immediate medical attention is required.
In the event of a drug or alcohol overdose, the ability to react quickly and appropriately could mean the difference between life and death. If you believe you are witnessing an overdose, take the following steps:
Narcan, the brand name for Nalaxone, is a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Although the distribution of this medication has been controversial if it is available during an overdose event, use it! Be sure to read the instructions carefully and administer the medication as directed.
The effects of an overdose on drugs or alcohol and how long it takes to recover can vary greatly depending on a wide array of factors. Some individuals make a quick and full recovery, whereas others experience permanent side effects. One study on overdose recovery found that consciousness returned after a day or two, but “the drug itself may not finally leave the brain for another one to three weeks”. The effects that the individual may be facing include: