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Overdose Overview

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If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction, we’re here to help.

An overdose doesn’t have to be the end of the story. It may not seem like it at first, but an overdose is an opportunity for growth, change and recovery. You or your loved one can come back stronger, healthier and happier with a little information, help and support.

What Is a Drug Overdose?

Heating heroin in spoonIf an overdose isn’t the end, then what it is? An overdose can be accidental or intentional. It happens when someone takes more of a drug or drugs than is recommended. Sometimes this amount is more than your body can process or handle. When it is, dangerous or even fatal symptoms can appear.

What Does an Overdose Look Like?

Different drugs have different overdose symptoms, and even one drug can cause different symptoms in different people. However most overdoses cause one of more of the following:

  • Raised or reduced temperature, heart rate, breathing rate or blood pressure
  • Extreme pain in the abdomen, chest, muscles, bones or joints
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

If you suspect an overdose or that a loved one may be overdosing, don’t wait for symptoms to get worse or more to appear. You can reduce the danger of an overdose by taking action.

How Dangerous Is an Overdose?

You’ve heard the warnings and statistics, but just how dangerous is an overdose? The Centers for Disease Control shares, “Opioids (including prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl) killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, more than any year on record. 40% of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.”1 People die from overdose, and more people die every year. They overdose on street drugs, but they also overdose on “safer” prescribed medications. No matter what drug you take or suspect a loved one is taking, an overdose is dangerous. However no one has to become a statistic. You can prevent an overdose.

How Do You Prevent Overdose Harm?

The first step in reducing harm is speaking up as soon as you suspect an overdose. Call 911. Don’t hesitate to involve the authorities. Good Samaritan laws will likely protect you or your loved one from legal ramifications. However no matter the rules or regulations, saving a life is more important than avoiding getting in “trouble.” Medical professionals can keep you or a loved one safe by addressing overdose symptoms as they arise. They can also administer potentially life-saving medications.

How Can Medications Treat Overdose?

Narcan spraySeveral medications can help treat overdoses. Naloxone (sold under the brand name Narcan) is a medication that mutes the opioid receptors in the brain. As the Journal of Urban Health explains, this means, “Naloxone, an injectable opiate antagonist, can immediately reverse an opiate overdose and prevent overdose death.”2 You may even be able to get take-home naloxone if you or a loved one struggles with addiction. It isn’t a substitute for professional medical attention, but it can bridge the gap between that attention and an overdose. It can save a life while you then take the next steps towards preventing overdose in the future.

How Do You Prevent an Overdose?

You can help prevent an overdose by better understanding addiction. The Guardian explains, “A better understanding of the nature of addiction should make it harder to simply blame the [addict] for his or her predicament. This could help drug users to begin to move away from automatic vilification and towards greater compassion for this highly stigmatized group.”3 Contrary to popular belief, addiction is not a choice, a moral failing or a sign of weakness. These misunderstandings are harmful. They keep people from getting the treatment that will prevent overdose and lead to a better, brighter future.

How Do You Treat Addiction?

Professional addiction treatment incorporates physical health care, mental health care and support for emotional and spiritual well-being. Addiction is more than a physical disease. It is a chronic health condition with many contributing factors. It is also closely tied to mental health and often co-occurs with other mental health issues. If you or a loved one does not get treatment for all of these related concerns, relapse becomes likely–and with relapse comes increased overdose risk.

What If I’ve Already Overdosed?

If you or a loved one has experienced an overdose, it’s the perfect time to get that much-needed treatment. Call Michael’s House and learn more about integrated treatment options. Learn how we can help you protect your health as you find freedom from addiction. Now is always the right time to action. Please call today.


1Opioid Overdose.” Centers for Disease Control. 23 Oct. 2017.

2 Seal, KH, et. al. “Attitudes About Prescribing Take-Home Naloxone.” Journal of Urban Health. Jun. 2003.

3 Lloyd, Charlie. “Drug Addicts Are Not to Blame for Their Plight.” The Guardian. 24 Aug. 2010.