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Dangers of Drug Overdose

A drug overdose is a real danger and can result in death. Read on to learn about how to spot the signs and where to find help.

What Is a Drug Overdose?

A drug overdose occurs when a person takes too much of a substance, resulting in dangerous medical complications and potential death. Drug overdoses can be intentional or accidental. Purposeful overdoses are usually the result of suicide attempts, while accidental overdoses often occur when people take more of a drug than they intended to, or when the drug is not 100% pure.1

drug overdose

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Impact of Drug Addiction and Overdose

One of the significant causes of death in the United States is drug overdose. In the United States alone, over one hundred thousand people died due to drug overdoses in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioids like heroin and fentanyl caused the vast majority of these deaths.2

However, other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, also contribute to the rising death toll. Drug abuse is a severe problem that can have devastating consequences. Not only does it lead to addiction, but it can also cause serious health problems, including organ damage and eventual overdose.

Drug Overdose Reasons and Risk Factors

There are two main ways that someone could overdose on a substance. These include:

  • Accidental Drug Overdose: People might accidentally overdose on a drug if they don’t know how much to take or if they take more than one drug at a time. They could also accidentally overdose if they obtain drugs illegally and the drug is cut with another substance as well.
  • Intentional Drug Overdose: People might intentionally overdose on a drug in an attempt to commit suicide.

Risk Factors for Drug Overdoses

Several risk factors can increase a person’s risk of overdosing on drugs, and these may differ for each person. Not all of these have to occur for a drug overdose to happen, either. These risk factors include:

  • A personal or family history of drug abuse
  • Mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety
  • Stressful life events, such as job loss or divorce
  • Easy access to drugs
  • Peer pressure

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Overdose

Although there are some common signs of a drug overdose, certain factors affect how these signs manifest. The factors that can affect the signs of a drug overdose are:

  • Amount of Drug Taken: The amount can overwhelm the body's systems, causing severe complications.
  • Purity of the Drug: Street drugs are often cut with other substances, increasing the risk of an overdose.
  • Genetic Factors: These factors such as age, weight, and health status can affect how someone reacts to a drug overdose.

Common Signs of Drug Overdose

There are some signs and symptoms that are common to most drug overdoses, regardless of the type of drug that was taken. These include:

  • Confusion
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the chest or abdomen
  • Problems with vision or hearing

Severe Symptoms of Drug Overdose

Severe signs of drug overdose are much more serious and mean the person experiencing them needs help right away. These can include:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Mental health problems
  • Death

Preventing Drug Overdose

Drug addiction is a severe problem that can have devastating consequences. However, if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, resources are available to help. To avoid unintentional overdoses, one can take the following measures:

  • Disposing of unused or expired medications properly
  • Keeping track of how much medication you are taking
  • Avoiding alcohol or other drugs while taking medications
  • Asking your doctor or pharmacist about the risks of taking a particular medication
  • Practice medicine safety
  • Never keep medications you no longer use
  • Keep all drugs locked away in a safe place
  • Be careful when taking different medications at the same time

How Can A Drug Overdose Be Treated?

For those that accidentally overdose on drugs, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately. If someone you know has overdosed on a drug, call 911 right away. If the person is unconscious, breathing, or having a seizure, do not try to make them vomit. This could cause them to choke on their vomit. Once emergency services arrive, the person will be taken to the hospital, where they will be treated.3

Drug Overdose Treatment Options

There are multiple ways one can treat a drug overdose. These methods will be detailed below.


Naloxone is a medication used to treat an overdose of opioids such as heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers. When given early, it can reverse the effects of an overdose and save the person's life.4

Naloxone works by binding to the same receptors in the brain as opioids, but it does not produce the same effects. Instead, it blocks the receptors from binding to opioids, which reverses the overdose and allows the person to breathe normally again.

Life-Saving Drug Overdose Prevention Programs

Overdose prevention programs have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, as the opioid epidemic has taken its toll on communities across the country. These programs provide a vital service, offering drug overdose treatment options to those struggling with addiction.

In many cases, these programs are run by volunteers who have
overcome addiction and are passionate about helping others do the same. These programs offer various services, from counseling and support groups to medication-assisted treatment. Sometimes, they even provide emergency care for those overdosed on opioids. Overdose prevention programs are vital to the fight against addiction by providing lifesaving services and support.

Find Help for Drug Overdose and Addiction at Boardwalk Recovery

No one ever expects to find themselves struggling with addiction. Yet, people from all walks of life struggle with addiction or drug use daily. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, it's essential to know that help is available.

Boardwalk Recovery offers a range of programs and services to help those struggling with addiction get their lives back on track. From detoxification and rehabilitation to sober living and aftercare, we provide our clients with the support and resources to achieve lasting sobriety. We understand the road to recovery can be a long and challenging journey. So please contact us if you're ready to take the first step. We're here to help.

The Bottom Line

It is essential to be aware of the danger of drug overdose and how to spot the signs. If you see someone exhibiting any symptoms of an overdose, it is essential to call for medical help immediately.

If detected in time, an overdose may occasionally be reversible. However, even if an overdose is not changed, medical help can still be vital in preventing further damage and ensuring the person
receives the treatment they need.

By being informed about overdose risks and knowing what to do during an overdose, you can help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
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