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 of 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 huge and traumatic.
Signs that someone is experiencing a drug overdose include rapid heartbeat and increased body temperature, chest pain, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, cessation of breath, gurgling sounds which may red flag that a person’s airway is blocked, blue fingers or lips, nausea, vomiting, confusion, violent behavior, aggression, dizziness, seizures and 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. 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. Then, check if the person is breathing and note their heart rate. Call 911 immediately, and try to get the person to respond. Ask them questions to determine their level of alertness and to calmly keep them awake. If the person is not breathing, turn them on their side. If you are medically qualified to do so, provide CPR if necessary. Give first aid as directed by 911 as you wait for help to arrive, and never allow the person to take any more of a substance in the meantime. If a person is overdosing on opioids and there is NARCAN available, follow the instructions and administer the nasal spray. NARCAN, however, should not be used in lieu of professional medical care, and it is important that a person still receive emergency services even if they “wake up” after receiving the medication. They are still at risk for respiratory failure and professional care is necessary. 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.