Many unknowingly take painkillers in a dose that is not recommended, or maybe they assume nothing bad could come from a little extra relief. The truth is over 100 people die every day from opioid (pain relief) drug overdoses.
What is an opioid overdose? Opioids affect the part of the brain that regulates breathing. When people take high doses of opioids, it can lead to an overdose, with the slowing or stopping of breathing and sometimes death.
An opioid overdose can happen for a variety of reasons, including if you
- Take an opioid to get high
- Take an extra dose of a prescription opioid or take it too often (either accidentally or on purpose)
- Mix an opioid with other medicines, illegal drugs, or alcohol. An overdose can be fatal when mixing an opioid and certain anxiety treatment medicines, such as Xanax or Valium.
- Take an opioid medicine that was prescribed for someone else. Children are especially at risk of an accidental overdose if they take medicine not intended for them.
The signs of an opioid overdose include
- The person’s face is extremely pale and/or feels clammy to the touch
- Their body goes limp
- Their fingernails or lips have a purple or blue color
- They start vomiting or making gurgling noises
- They cannot be awakened or are unable to speak
- Their breathing or heartbeat slows or stops
If you think someone is having an opioid overdose,
- Call 9-1-1 immediately
- Administer naloxone, if it is available. Naloxone is a safe medication that can quickly stop an opioid overdose. It can be injected into the muscle or sprayed into the nose to rapidly block the effects of the opioid on the body.
- Try to keep the person awake and breathing
- Lay the person on their side to prevent choking
- Stay with the person until emergency workers arrive