Signs of Drug Overdose and What to Do if the Situation Occurs - Banyan Treatment Center

Signs of Drug Overdose and What to Do if the Situation Occurs

You may have experienced a drug overdose or know someone who has. An overdose is actually a brain injury resulting from lack of adequate oxygen flow. In most cases, overdoses are not intentional. You may not think that recreational drug use will lead to an overdose, but it can happen to anyone who is using drugs, anytime they use. Knowing the signs of drug overdose can save a life.

Every time you use a drug, you are carrying the risk of serious side effects or overdose. Overdoses can happen with all types of drugs including cocaine, heroin, alcohol, etc. Accidental overdoses occur when users consume too large an amount of either prescription medication or illegal drugs. Intentional overdoses are typically a result of someone trying to commit suicide. The losses that families and loved ones experience when an addict overdoses are vast and traumatic.

Overdose Symptoms

The exact signs of drug overdose will vary from person to person, as different drugs and varying body chemistry can result in a variety of overdose symptoms. Common signs that someone is experiencing a drug overdose include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased body temperature
  • Chest pain
  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cessation of breath
  • Gurgling sounds (which indicate airway obstruction)
  • Blue fingers or lips
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Violent behavior
  • Aggression
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

A person may not experience all of these signs, but even a few of these symptoms can indicate a person is experiencing an overdose.

What to Do if Someone Exhibits Signs of Drug Overdose

If you are present when someone is experiencing an overdose, the first and most important thing is that you remain calm. Panicking will not help. You can help someone who is experiencing overdose symptoms by:

  • Calling 911, this should be the first thing you do
  • Ask the person questions to keep them awake
  • If they’re not breathing, turn them on their side
  • Give first aid as directed by 911 until help arrives
  • If they are overdosing on opioids, safely administer NARCAN if it’s available
  • If you’re qualified to do so, perform CPR until help arrives

While waiting for emergency services to arrive, obtain as much information as possible, including the dose, time of last dose and type of drug the person used so that first responders can treat him or her accordingly. If prescription medications or other labeled substances have been used, take the container with you to the ER, even if the bottle is empty. Assure the person that help is on the way and continue to stay calm.

Life After Overdose

If you or someone you love has overdosed, it’s a clear sign that addiction has become a major problem. The only way to safely avoid future overdose is to get sober with the professional help of a drug and alcohol treatment center. Our family of facilities at Banyan Treatment Center offers medically monitored detox, inpatient programs, partial hospitalization care, outpatient programs, sober alumni programs, and more. With a variety of nationwide detox programs and treatment options, we are here to help you.


At Banyan Treatment Center, we provide ongoing relapse prevention programs for recovering addicts. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or at risk of experiencing an overdose, contact our drug and alcohol treatment center today for a free assessment. Reach out to us at 1-954-945-7520. Recovery IS possible.

Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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