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Drugs and Pills That Can Cause Overdose

drugs that can cause overdose

Due to the opioid epidemic and other growing drug-related trends, thousands of people are battling drug abuse and the many dangers it presents.

Drug overdoses are currently the leading cause of accidental death in the United States for people under the age of 50. At this time, drug overdose deaths exceed those linked to firearms, car accidents, homicides, and HIV/AIDS.1 Overdose can either be accidental or intentional and usually involve addictive substances. Our Pompano Beach treatment center is sharing a list of drugs and pills that can cause overdose and overdose symptoms to look out for.

What Is an Overdose of Drugs?

An overdose of drugs is when a person takes a higher dose of a prescription or over-the-counter medication than medically recommended. However, drug overdoses can also occur with illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin when a person takes a dose that their body can’t metabolize quickly enough. In high doses, certain drugs are extremely toxic and can cause uncomfortable symptoms and death. Poisonings are also common but generally refer to exposure to chemicals, plants, and other toxic substances.

What Is an Accidental Drug Overdose?

Drug overdoses can either be intentional or accidental. Usually, intentional drug overdoses are done to achieve the desired effect of self-harm, but accidental drug overdoses typically occur when a small child or an adult with impaired mental abilities swallows a medication left within their reach. Children younger than five years old may swallow drugs by accident simply because they’re curious and because they’re at a stage where they put almost anything into their mouths. They may also mistake the medication for candy or something else that is edible.

However, adolescents and adults are more likely to purposely overdose on one or more drugs to harm themselves or experience a high. People with drug addictions are especially at risk of overdosing because of developed tolerance. Tolerance causes drug users to increase their dose to experience the same side effects they once did with a lower amount. Additionally, accidental prescription drug overdoses can occur in elderly people who take many different medications and inadvertently ingest the wrong one, mix them, or take the wrong dose.

If you take any medications, make sure you store them in a place where they’re out of reach from small children or anyone else who should not be taking them. If you have an elderly parent or friend, try and help them organize their medications to prevent an accidental overdose. For people with drug addictions, the best way to help them avoid overdoses and other health complications is to get them professional treatment.

Banyan Treatment Centers Pompano offers various addiction treatment programs in Florida that address different substance use disorders. We can help you or a loved one battling addiction regain their health and sobriety.

What Drugs Can You Overdose On?

People assume that only illicit drugs can cause overdose, but this isn’t the case. In addition to addiction, there are many ways to overdose, and a variety of over-the-counter medications that can also lead to this outcome.

Drugs and pills that can cause overdose include:

  • Cough medicines, especially those containing dextromethorphan (DXM)
  • Sedative antihistamines
  • Laxatives
  • Inhalants
  • Alcohol (also known as alcohol poisoning)
  • Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers)
  • Prescription painkillers like fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and codeine
  • Morphine
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Synthetic or designer drugs like bath salts, Flakka, and Spice (fake weed)

According to a study conducted on drugs frequently involved in overdose deaths in the U.S. between 2011 and 2016, the most common overdose drugs were fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, alprazolam, diazepam, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The same study also found that the drugs most frequently involved in accidental overdoses in 2016 were fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine.2 

Not only can these drugs cause overdose, but they can also lead to a lifetime of addiction. Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease characterized by the inability to control one’s use of drugs or alcohol. This disease can be a trap for many and can ruin a person’s health, relationships, and finances. When it comes to drug abuse, overdose is only one of the many dangerous side effects that can occur.

How Much Does It Take To Overdose?

To answer, “How much does it take to overdose?” is complicated. The amount is heavily influenced by a number of variables, including the substance in issue, the person's tolerance, body mass index, metabolism, and general state of health. The likelihood of an overdose can also be influenced by body weight since a smaller individual may be more vulnerable to the toxic effects of a drug than a larger individual.

Different medications have varying degrees of toxicity and overdose risk. For instance, a few milligrams of the potent opioid fentanyl can be fatal, although other drugs like marijuana have not been linked to fatal overdoses.

Individual considerations are also very important. While someone with little to no tolerance may be at a higher risk, someone with a stronger tolerance to a drug may need higher doses in order to experience an overdose.

It's crucial to remember that an overdose can have a variety of symptoms, and overdoses are not always fatal. Additionally, because the combined effects of numerous drugs can be unpredictable and potentially fatal, polysubstance usage can greatly raise the danger of overdose.

To fully comprehend the potential risks and dangers associated with drug use, including the possibility of overdose, it is essential to consult trustworthy sources, healthcare professionals, and guidelines relevant to the substance in question.

Common Drug Overdose Symptoms

The severity of intentional and accidental drug overdose symptoms depends on the dose of the ingested drug. Many drug users tend to overdose because they’re trying to experience a particular high. This danger is common in long-time drug users primarily because they’ve developed a high tolerance that requires them to use more of a drug for the same effect. However, regardless of whether someone intentionally or accidentally ingested the same dose of a substance, they may experience the same side effects.

Although the signs of a drug overdose may differ depending on the substance, some generally common drug overdose symptoms include:

  • Bloody bowel movements or vomiting blood
  • Chest pains
  • Cold sweats
  • Confusion
  • Decreased or increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulties with breathing (breathing may be slow, rapid, or shallow)
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Organ damage
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness, possibly from difficulties sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Stomach pains

Addiction and Overdose Recovery

As challenging as these situations are, recovery after overdose is possible, especially with the assistance of our Pompano Beach rehab center. We offer a variety of therapy programs, ensuring people struggling can have a safe and supportive environment to navigate this journey.

Frequent drug overdoses may be a sign of addiction. If you’re struggling with substance abuse or suspect that a loved one is, call Banyan’s Pompano rehab now at 888-280-4763 to learn how our partial hospitalization program (PHP) can help.


  1. Drug Policy - Drug Overdose
  2. NIH - Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2011-2016

Related Reading:

The Truth About Opioid Overdose Brain Damage

Accidental Drug Overdose

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.