Drug misuse affects a person’s physical, mental, psychological, and social wellbeing. It can also ruin relationships, careers, economic stability, and opportunities. What is worse is that addiction can lead to drug overdose and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 67,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, including prescription opioids and illicit drugs, in 2018 alone.
The unfortunate thing about drug overdose deaths is that they could have been prevented in the first place. Family members of people suffering from substance use disorder can find an addiction treatment center and arrange an intervention to help their loved one start their recovery journey. They could also learn about the symptoms of a drug overdose so that they can act appropriately when it happens.
If you have a loved one who you believe is struggling with substance use disorder, read on. Below are some crucial information about drug overdose, including how to recognize the signs and what you can do to save your loved one’s life.
What Are the Signs of Drug Overdose?
The signs of an overdose vary depending on several factors, like the age and health of the person, the type and amount of drug involved, and how the substance was taken. Nonetheless, there are general warning signs that could alert you if your loved one is overdosing or has overdosed on a substance, and these include the following:
Nausea and vomiting.
Drugs alter the functions of the body. As such, when the person has taken a substantial amount of a substance in their system, the body goes into overdrive. In an attempt to restore balance, the body tries to expel the substance by vomiting.
Dilated or constricted pupils.
The pupils change in size depending on the type of drugs used. For instance, opioid overdose can cause the pupils of the person to constrict (“pinpoint pupils”). Overdosing on stimulants like cocaine, however, can result in dilated pupils.
An individual suffering from drug overdose may find it difficult to stay awake.
Blue fingernails or lips.
Drug overdose can significantly reduce the oxygen in the blood, causing the fingernails and lips to exhibit a bluish tint.
Stimulants can cause the body’s temperature to rise, so the person’s skin can become warm to the touch, or the individual may sweat profusely even when the indoor temperature is normal. Depressants, on the other hand, tend to lower the body’s temperature, making the skin unusually cool to the touch.
Breathing changes when a person has overdosed on drugs. For instance, taking excessive stimulants can cause shortness of breath, while depressants can slow down breathing.
Irregular pulse rate.
Drug overdose can result in an abnormal pulse rate. A racing heartbeat or a heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute could indicate a drug overdose.
Loss of consciousness
. Overdosing can slow down the heart rate, breathing rate, and the central nervous system to the point that the person becomes unconscious.
Confusion or disorientation.
A person who has overdosed on drugs could suffer from a lack of mental clarity and disorientation. They may find it difficult to determine where they are, or they could become confused about the current time and date.
. Drug overdose can cause the person to see, hear, smell, or feel things that are not real, which could eventually lead to self-harm or accidents.
What Can You Do If You Suspect That Someone Has Overdosed on Drugs?
If you notice any of the signs of drug overdose mentioned above, take note of the following pointers:
While your instinct is to panic as you are faced with a dangerous situation, you should try your best to stay calm. You can count from 1 to 10 or do breathing exercises so that you can keep your cool, think more clearly, and act appropriately.
Call for help.
Contact 911 immediately and check the person’s pulse and breathing. Try talking to see if the person is responsive or unconscious.
Reassure the person (if they are awake).
If the person is awake, stay by their side and engage in conversations to keep them conscious. Talk calmly and assure the person that help is on the way and everything will be alright.
Try to get as much information as possible, such as the type of drug used and when it was taken. Retrieve the container if the person overdosed using prescription drugs so that you can show it to the paramedics when they arrive. Relay all the information you gathered to the medical team as well.
Turn the person on their side if they are unconscious but breathing.
Apart from placing the person in the recovery position, try to tilt the head back to ensure that their airway remains open. Monitor the person’s breathing and overall condition until the ambulance arrives.
Keep in mind the following don’ts:
- Do not make the person eat or drink.
- Do not try to make the person vomit.
- Do not use force when trying to awaken the person.
- Do not put the person under a shower or force them to take a cold bath.
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