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What is Overdose?

Overdose is a life threatening situation requiring immediate emergency care that can result when someone ingests too much of a substance. Worldwide there approximately half a million deaths attributable to overdose, with 70% being related to the use of opioids. There are many different reasons why an overdose might happen and it can vary depending on the substance or substances being used. Some signs of overdose, especially in the case of drug use or alcohol poisoning, are shallow breathing, confusion, decreased alertness, low heart rate, and loss of consciousness.

Some of the ways in which overdose can happen include:

  • Substances are unknowingly laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is used to treat severe pain for patients after surgery. Due to its potency, it can increases the risk of addiction and overdose. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 59% of opioid related deaths involved fentanyl in 2017.
  • Detox and/or lack of tolerance. When someone is detoxing by either reducing their regular dosage or by completely stopping the use of harmful substances, this can weaken their tolerance. Therefore, if they use drugs again at the same level or in excess of what their previous dosage used to be, it can lead to overdose.
  • Excessive Alcohol Use. “A lot of people don’t think of alcohol poisoning when it comes to overdose. Popular culture in commercials, movies and TV shows frequently perpetuate the idea that if you drink too much alcohol that you will pass out. That is actually an overdose, and can lead to death,” says Dr. Jessica Sullivan, Director of Centerstone’s Certified Behavioral Health Clinic.
  • Mixing substances. Polysubstance use is using two or more substances at any given time. There are many different variations to this that can lead to overdose such as mixing stimulants (cocaine, methamphetamines), mixing depressants (heroin, fentanyl), mixing stimulants and depressants (cocaine, heroin) and mixing other drugs with alcohol.

In some situations, overdose can be reversed. The most common reversal method is Naloxone also known as Narcan. Narcan is a readily available medication that reverses the effects from opioids, heroin, and fentanyl and prescription medications. Narcan is is available at most pharmacies without a prescription, and typically in the form of a nasal spray so that it becomes easier to use in times of need.

If you know someone who is dealing with the loss of a loved one to overdose, here are some ways you can help them navigate their grief:

  • Spend time with them and offer a listening ear
  • Encouraging them to talk to a grief counselor
  • Invite them to participate in a local support groups
  • Provide education and support to others who are in similar situations

If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction or loss, Centerstone can help.  Give us a call at 1-877-HOPE123 or visit www.centerstone.org to learn more.

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