Looking at Prescription Drug Overdose

Drug overdoses can be accidental or intentional. They occur when a person takes more than the medically recommended dose. However, some people may be more sensitive to certain medications so the low end of a drug may be toxic for them; a dose that is still within the range of acceptable medical use may be too much for their bodies to handle. Regardless of why, an overdose is a medical emergency that can turn fatal quickly.

An adult (especially seniors or people taking many medications) can mistakenly ingest the incorrect medication or take the wrong dose of a medication. Purposeful overdoses are for a desired effect, either to get high or to harm oneself.

Attempting to harm oneself may represent a suicide attempt. People who purposefully overdose on medications frequently suffer from underlying mental health conditions. These conditions may or may not have been diagnosed before.

Now, the world knows about the drug Naloxone. It is an opioid antagonist that prevents or reverses the effects of the opioid. In overdoses, it can stop the shallow respirations, sedation and the action of the opioid in the system.

Naloxone is given by shot or nasal spray. Naloxone wears off in about an hour. A person who has overdosed may stop breathing then and need another shot. It’s important to call 911 and stay with the person until help arrives. He may need more doses of naloxone or other emergency care.

A person who is overdosing may:

  • be breathing very slow or not breathing
  • have blue or purplish lips or fingernails
  • be limp
  • be vomitting or gurgling
  • not wake up or respond if you try to rouse him

If a person shows signs of an overdose:

  1. Call 911 right away.
  2. Begin rescue breathing, if the person isn’t taking in air.
  3. Give the person naloxone.

The medical community widely supports making naloxone more easily available, because it saves lives. In more than half the U.S. and the District of Columbia, Good Samaritan laws protect a person who helps someone during an overdose.

Young children may swallow drugs by accident because of their curiosity about medications they may find. Children younger than age 5 (especially age 6 months to 3 years) tend to place everything they find into their mouths. Drug overdoses in this age group are generally caused when someone accidentally leaves a medication within the child’s reach.

Adolescents and adults are more likely to overdose on one or more drugs in order to harm themselves. Attempting to harm oneself may represent a suicide attempt. People who purposefully overdose on medications frequently suffer from underlying mental illnesses. These conditions may or may not have been diagnosed before.

Other emergent treatments for an overdose are below:

    • On rare occasions, the stomach may be washed out by gastric lavage (stomach pumping) to mechanically remove absorbed drugs from the stomach.
    • Activated charcoal may be given to help bind drugs and keep them in the stomach and intestines. This reduces the amount absorbed into the blood. The drug, bound to the charcoal, is then expelled in the stool. Often, a cathartic is given with the charcoal so that the person more quickly evacuates stool from his or her bowels.
    • Agitated or violent people may need physical restraint and sometimes sedating medications in the emergency department until the effects of the drugs wear off. This can be disturbing for a person to experience and for family members to witness.
    • Medical professionals go to great lengths to use only as much force and as much medication as necessary. It is important to remember that whatever the medical staff does, it is to protect the person they are treating. Sometimes the person has to be intubated (have a tube placed in the airway) so that the doctor can protect the lungs or help the person breathe during the detoxification process.
    • For certain overdoses, other medicine may need to be given either to serve as an antidote to reverse the effects of what was taken or to prevent even more harm from the drug that was initially taken. The doctor will decide if treatment needs to include additional medicines.

    After Overdosing a person may realize the extent of their addiction and want help. Some help is noted below:

    Experts believe group therapy is superior to individual therapy for people recovering from prescription drug abuse. The group setting allows peers to both support and challenge each other, and creates a sense of shared community.

    Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an international network of community-based meetings for those recovering from drug addiction. Modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous(AA), NA is an abstinence-based 12-step program with a defined process for overcoming addiction. More than 58,000 NA meetings take place every week worldwide.

    Methadone Anonymous is a similar 12-step program that acknowledges the value of maintenance therapy with methadone or Suboxone for recovery.

    Family members often have their own emotional problems that come from coping with their loved one’s addiction. They can often benefit from attending their own support group, sharing their stories and experiences with other families. Narc-Anon, an offshoot of Narcotics Anonymous, is the most well-known.

    There are also Christian based 12 step groups like Celebrate Recovery and Overcomers. These groups focus on scripture based healing and drug abstinence.

    If one lives through an overdose, hopefully they will be ready to start a different life. There are also MAT programs where Suboxone or Methadone is used to help get over horrible withdrawal symptoms that lead many back to taking their drug of choice. Which ever road one chooses, I only pray for better life for all.

    Thank you


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    14 thoughts on “Looking at Prescription Drug Overdose

    1. Drug addiction is a cancer worm that is eating deep into the youths of today and adults. A lot of people abuse drugs and take them in over dose which I’d not just detrimental to their health but there livelihood. There are a lot of drugs been abused and they give bad side effects. I am glad that there are now preventive and helpful measure like naloxone made to help people who find themselves in this situation. Either accidentally or purposely it needs to be curbed. Thanks for this enlightening review.

      1. Thank you Willy for taking the time to leave a review. Addiction is like a cancer. Thankfully some solutions are becoming available and relief is possible.

        Warm wishes

    2. Overdose usage of drug is a very paramount issue in our present community among youths and even adults. I believe this article will sensitize people about what overdose means and how drugs can consciously or unconsciously abused. As it is in the post, people who indulge in overdose of medication are liable to suffer serious mental illness and even some lead to death. I believe people need to be informed about how to keep drugs safe in the case where little children are around so as to prevent them from swallowing as much as they see. The post have shown us some emergent treatments for overdose and I believe they are very effective. The post is very educating and useful. I like it.

      1. Thank you for leaving me a reply and your input. You make a valid point about storage to keep out of reach of others. There are lock boxes available in all sizes. We have one at our house that we used when I got out of surgery. With an addict, however, you have to make sure the key is hidden very well or carry it on you at all times. We can figure how to get into things. LOL

        Best Wishes Always

    3. Thank you for sharing this informative and very useful information Lisa, it does actually concern me because I take quite a lot of medication daily, 5 high blood pressure tablets, 4 pain relief tablets for my arthritis and 4 tablets for my rosacea skin condition, my memory isn’t quite what it was and I do occasionally forget to take my medication and on such occasions when I am out and about and I start getting pain from my arthritis I buy some over the counter pain relief tablets instead of my prescribed ones, I often wonder if this maybe having an adverse effect as the doctor may have taken into account my other medications when prescribing those specific pain relief ones, is there anything you could recommend for me to help me to remember to take my medication every day, thank you for sharing this post.   

      1. Thank you for reviewing my post and for the comments. Regarding your medications, I have several ideas. Set your phone alarm to go off at the times you need to take them. There are also pill planner boxes that have the days of the week on them and you fill them up for the week. You will know if you did not take a dose if it is still in the slot for that day. There are also little baggies that you can put the doses in and take with you even to remember to take them. If you have the baggie of medication still, you forgot to take it. Of course, even if you forgot, you should not take it when remembered if you have to take the medication several times per day. Just leave it skipped. An alarm on phone would be the first thing I would do and maybe that would get you in habit of taking them. 

        All the best


    4. Thanks for sharing this educational post. The issue of drug abuse should be property handled as it is a situation we don’t want to keep seeing in our society. Especially amongst young people, its getting really rampant and reasons for which are not valid at all. I once saw a kid who became an addict out of a dare that he couldn’t take a particular drug for a period of one week and as he went on doing it, his body system got used to it and he couldn’t stop.
      I love the educational aspect of this post on how to identity a someone who uses an overdose and also
      Naloxone that can help in emergency situation. I urge such post should be put up more to help out with drug overdose. Thanks for sharing .

      1. Thank you Chloe for taking time to leave a message. I appreciate your comments and I am happy that more treatment centers and medication treatment programs are becoming available.

        Best Wishes

    5. It’s good to read life saving articles like this to remind you of the first aid procedures from time to time. Drug overdose is something that is very scary to witness especially if it’s your love ones suffering from it. How much spray of Naloxone should we use on a patient while waiting for help? Must we spray it first or do rescue breathing? Thanks for sharing this with us. Information above would help a lot of people worldwide.

      1. Thank you MissusB for reading and commenting on my post. Naloxone is given in one nostril one spray while the person is laying down flat.  Some people need another dose if symptoms do not improve within about 10 minutes. The order is to call 911, 2 rescue breaths if not breathing and then the medication. Naloxone can cause effects of withdrawal after given and the addict can get violent or sick. So, it is a good thing to wait with them until help arrives. In some states, anyone can get Naloxone from the pharmacy. They are allowed to write script for it. I hope this helps and I will continue to write posts with educational information in it.

        Thank you again and all the best to you


    6. Hi, Lisa.
      Thanks for the critical information on Drug Over dose , indeed very informative.
      The five emergency treatments are worth saving in the diary. We never knew when the need of these treatments may become handy for the people we know.
      How can we create a support group in our community ? Does it need to have permission or licence from the local authorities to make it legal?
      In conclusion you mentioned MAT programs. Are they available worldwide?
      Warm Regards,
      Gaurav Gaur

      1. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and comment. As far as support groups there are outpatient treatment centers that need volunteers all the time and you do not have to have any credentials for that. MAT or Medication-Assisted Treatment is usually part of outpatient rehab. There are more coming around, but the physician has to have some education with addiction before he/she can open a clinic. So, they are starting to pop up and I am sure we will see them everywhere in the near future. Thank you for your concern and desire to support and help people with this disease. 

        All the best 


    7. Drug overdose/abuse is very common where I use to live and it was finding its way into my family and I had to move away. My son was a victim one time when he used a particular drug which was meant to give he strength for athletics (on prescription though)  and on the day of the sport he took more than the required dosage. We noticed how hyperactive he was all through and later at night he started to vomit. On reaching the hospital we noticed he had taken an overdose of his drugs. Thanks fully there wasn’t any damage done to his system but such act needs to be  stopped. I am glad I came across this post, I’ll show it to him so can learn.

      1. Thank you Dane for commenting. Yes, it sounds like he was headed for dependency/addiction. Vomiting is common when a person has taken more than prescribed, our body doesn’t know how to process that amount. I hope he learned something from it. It is no fun living day in and day out only thinking, craving and doing whatever it takes to get more of something that is killing you. 

        All the best to you and your son, 


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