Drug Overdose: Definition, Treatment, Prevention, and More

which drug overdose can cause sudden death

Because of this, first responders and people who are trained to administer naloxone (Narcan®) mainly rely on symptoms and personal history to diagnose them. As the person experiencing an overdose is usually unconscious, providers rely on bystanders or loved ones to tell them if the person has a history of substance use. They may also find items or substances related to the overdose near the person. Prescription opioids are involved in about 25% of all opioid overdose deaths. Nonprescription opioids account for about 75% of opioid overdose deaths. This is particularly relevant for people with opioid use disorders and leaving prison, as they have very high rates of opioid overdose during the first four weeks after release.

which drug overdose can cause sudden death

The drug naloxone (Narcan) can also help treat an opioid overdose by blocking opioids’ effects in the body. This medication is available in a nasal spray and as an intravenous injection at the hospital. These and other life-saving measures can help reduce the long-term health effects of drug overdose. 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.

If first responders suspect an opioid overdose, they’ll administer naloxone, a medication that treats opioid overdose. If the person’s symptoms improve with naloxone, it means they’ve experienced an opioid overdose. If the naloxone 52 ways to identify a covert narcissist has no effect on them, their symptoms are due to something else. 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.

How is an opioid overdose treated?

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. Opioid use disorder is a medical condition — it requires care just like any other condition. Overdose deaths remain a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Deaths involving synthetic opioids (largely illicitly made fentanyl) and stimulants (such as cocaine and methamphetamine) have increased in recent years.

It’s not clear how opioids trigger this, but filled with fluid, the lungs can’t oxygenate blood very well, and a person may slip further into respiratory trouble. Sensing small increases in CO2, the carotid body, a small cluster of cells in the neck, spurs big increases in breathing to remove excess CO2 and keep a person out of trouble. Breathing delivers fresh oxygen to the body’s cells and eliminates carbon dioxide. Opioids can interfere with that life-sustaining process in multiple, dangerous ways.

After assessing data on multiple cause-of-death from the National Vital Statistics System, Dr. Paulozzi and team identified 38,329 deaths in the USA caused by drug overdoses. The medication naloxone is used to reverse opioid overdoses and works by attaching to mu-receptors to prevent opioids’ effects. To prevent drug overdose from prescription medications, only take the prescribed dose. Follow a doctor or pharmacist’s directions for taking any prescription. Do not take additional doses to make up for any missed doses.

  1. Using Narcan nasal spray is a safe and easy way to save someone’s life during an opioid overdose.
  2. In the United States, most states also have “Good Samaritan Laws” that protect you from legal recourse when trying to save someone’s life.
  3. In suspected opioid overdose, first responders should focus on airway management, assisting ventilation and administering naloxone.

If you have depression or suicidal thoughts, contact your doctor right away. Drug overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal, continue to impact our nation. The opioid epidemic spurs a search for new, safer painkillers. Upon activating, the receptors change the behavior of cells in ways that can slow or even stop breathing.

About 39.5 million people lived with drug use disorders in 2021(2). Most people dependent on opioids used illicitly cultivated and manufactured heroin, but the proportion of those using prescription opioids is growing. When breathing is diminished and the brain is deprived of oxygen, it leads to cerebral hypoxia. After just 5 minutes, this can cause seizures, coma, and brain death. Lack of oxygen due to opioid overdose can also pave the way for a heart attack.

Symptoms of a drug overdose may include breathing difficulties, changes in heart rate or body temperature, seizure, stroke, and more. Even after administering this medication, it is crucial to take anyone experiencing an opioid overdose to the emergency room. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 106,699 people died of a drug overdose in the United States in 2021.

Drinking a lot of alcohol in a short time (binge drinking) can rapidly increase the amount of alcohol in the blood. This makes it difficult for the body to remove alcohol from the bloodstream and can harm other body parts. There are a range of treatments available for different kinds of drug overdose. It discusses benzodiazepines what a drug overdose is, why it occurs, and how to prevent it. An opioid overdose happens when opioid use causes respiratory depression, which can lead to respiratory failure and death. If you suspect that someone is overdosing on an opioid but are uncertain, you should still administer naloxone.

What are the treatments for drug overdose?

Narcotics are a class of drugs that are chemicals — natural or synthetic — that interact with nerve cells and have the potential to reduce pain. Opiates occur in nature, though they can still be very dangerous in their purified and concentrated forms. WHO recommends the use of a range of treatment options for opioid dependence. WHO supports countries in improving the coverage and quality of treatment programmes for opioid dependence and introducing them where they do not already exist. WHO also supports countries in monitoring trends in drug use and related harm, to better understand the scale of opioid dependence and opioid overdose. Worldwide, about 296 million people (or 5.8% of the global population aged 15–64 years) used drugs at least once in 2021.

which drug overdose can cause sudden death

Using Narcan nasal spray is a safe and easy way to save someone’s life during an opioid overdose. In the brain stem, regions called the medulla and the pons control the depth and rate of breathing. Both are loaded with opioid receptors — proteins that sit on the surface of cells and grab onto opioids. Anyone experiencing symptoms of an overdose should seek emergency medical care immediately. An overdose can lead to serious medical complications, including death.

What are the risk factors for drug overdose?

In addition, overdose deaths accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Death following opioid overdose is preventable if the person receives basic life support and the timely administration of the drug naloxone. Naloxone is an antidote to opioids that will reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if administered in time. Naloxone has virtually no effect in people who have not taken opioids. A drug overdose can occur after an individual takes too much of a medication or substance. The leading cause of drug overdoses today is opioid medications.

Prescription Drugs Linked To Most Fatal Overdoses

In suspected opioid overdose, first responders should focus on airway management, assisting ventilation and administering naloxone. After successful resuscitation following the administration of naloxone, the level of consciousness and breathing of the affected person should be closely observed until full recovery has been achieved. WHO supports countries in their efforts to ensure rational use of opioids how to get alcohol out of your system and  their optimal availability for medical purposes and minimization of their misuse and non-medical use. Anyone noticing these or other symptoms should contact emergency services or seek immediate medical treatment. A doctor can help recognize the signs of drug overdose and provide treatment recommendations. For example, overdosing on opioids adversely affects an individual’s ability to breathe.

Stimulants, alcohol, and benzodiazepines can also lead to drug overdose. The healthcare provider may be able to use an antidote for certain drug overdoses. For example, the drug naloxone can help reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. Opioid overdoses are medical emergencies that require quick diagnosis and treatment.


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