Author: James Anderson

Lifesaving Naloxone

how to treat an overdose

If you aren’t able to breathe in enough oxygen, oxygen levels in your blood start to decrease, causing your skin, lips and fingers to turn blue (cyanosis). This lack of oxygen can also cause damage to your brain, heart and other organs. In most cases, if you’re not breathing again within three to five minutes, this lack of oxygen leads to death. Naloxone (Narcan) is the main emergency treatment for opioid overdose. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it attaches to opioid receptors in your body and reverses and blocks the effects of opioids already in your system.

  1. Do not combine any medications without first asking your doctor if it’s safe.
  2. The main cause of death from an opioid overdose is respiratory failure (you stop breathing).
  3. If you don’t know the person, yell and ask if they need help.
  4. If you or a loved one has opioid use disorder, talk to a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
  5. If you know the person, yell their name or try yelling something you know they wouldn’t like, to see if it arouses them.

Administer the naloxone and then stay with the person until emergency services arrive on the scene, or for at least four hours to monitor if their breathing has gone back to normal. If you or someone you know uses opioids, it’s important to carry naloxone in case of an overdose. If you or a loved one has opioid use disorder, talk to a healthcare provider as soon as possible. A trained provider can help guide you to the treatment you need.

A person who has unintentional opioid poisoning will likely be in and out of consciousnesses. Naloxone won’t harm someone2 if they’re overdosing on drugs other than opioids, so it’s always best to use it if you think someone is overdosing. The liver and the kidneys are organs at high risk following a drug overdose. Brain damage can also occur from the containment of lung and heart function, which can be permanent.

Stay with the person until emergency services arrive

Stay calm, and do not give your opinions about the overdose. If the person is conscious, reassure them that medical professionals are on their way. People can also die from opioid overdose when they (knowingly or unknowingly) use an opioid in combination with another substance, such as a sedative or stimulant.

how to treat an overdose

Seek immediate medical help by calling 911 or taking them to an emergency unit. If you aren’t sure if someone is overdosing, it’s best to act as if they are by seeking emergency help. If you misuse drugs, quitting is the best way for you to prevent a drug overdose. Know that certain ways of taking drugs can be riskier than others. Inhaling or injecting drugs may cause them to get to your brain more quickly and also increases your chance of using an amount that can severely harm you. If you use prescription drugs, be sure to use them only as directed by your doctor.

This is especially important if you have to leave them alone for any reason — even if it’s just for a few seconds. Rx Awareness | CDC – Prescription opioids can be addictive and dangerous. CDC’s Rx Awareness campaign tells the stories of people whose lives were impacted by prescription opioids. Carrying naloxone is no different than carrying an epinephrine auto-injector (commonly known by the brand name EpiPen) for someone with allergies. It simply provides an extra layer of protection for those at a higher risk for overdose.

Other Federal Resources

“Too much” varies from person to person depending on their opioid tolerance and the potency (strength) of the opioid they’re using. When an opioid overdose is suspected, Narcan (naloxone hydrochloride) should be administered as soon as possible. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Narcan Nasal Spray in March 2023 as an over-the-counter (OTC) emergency treatment for opioid overdose.

how to treat an overdose

Anyone who uses opioids could potentially experience an opioid overdose. Overdoses can happen to people during their first time using opioids, to people who’ve taken them multiple times or to people who have opioid use disorder. An opioid overdose can happen when a person takes too much of an opioid or a combination of opioids and other substances, such as alcohol, sedatives or stimulants.

Drugs & Supplements

If you suspect a person has overdosed, but you’re not sure what substance they’ve used, you should still give them a dose of naloxone just in case they have opioids in their system. If they didn’t take opioids, naloxone is still safe — it just won’t have any effect. Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of opioids and can return normal breathing to a person who has difficulty breathing or who’s stopped breathing due to an opioid overdose. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with opioids being the most common cause.

Administer naloxone (Narcan) if you have it available

Fentanyl is an opioid that’s 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. People who make heroin often add nonmedical fentanyl to it to increase its potency (strength). Good Samaritan laws and similar legal protections exist across states to ensure you will not get into trouble for helping someone experiencing an overdose. This article will explain what an overdose is, the signs and symptoms of overdose to watch for in yourself and others, and what to do in case of an overdose. Drug Overdose Immunity and Good Samaritan LawsPolicymakers are seeking solutions that will help curb use and overdose by expanding Good Samaritan immunity, and increasing naloxone access.

The resources listed below provide guidance for first responders. That means it’s safe to administer even if you’re unsure of whether someone’s experiencing unintentional poisoning from opioids or another substance. If you see someone potentially experiencing a drug overdose, seek immediate medical assistance by calling 911. However, do not put your own safety at risk because specific drugs can promote unpredictable or aggressive behavior in some users. The main cause of death from an opioid overdose is respiratory failure (you stop breathing).