Overdose is one of the leading causes of death. It can either be accidental or on purpose. An overdose occurs when your body ingests drugs or substances in quantities greater than the recommended dosage or amount. These drugs or substances may be in the form of over-the-counter medicines, prescription medicines, illegal drugs, some herbal medications, and alcohol. When these are taken too much, they eventually become toxic to the body, thus causing one to lose his life.
Most people have different levels of tolerance to drugs and substances. Tolerance varies with age, health condition, ways on how the drugs or substance were taken, and many other factors. The body of a person suffering from an illness does not react to medicines as the others with the same illness. Although the body, itself, has its own way of healing with or without medical care, there are times that death is a risk. For some it may come instantly while for others, when the organs are permanently damaged, death follows gradually.
Signs and symptoms of drug overdose
All drugs have effects on the entire body. When taken improperly the effects of the drugs heighten to a level that is beyond what the body needs so an overdose occurs. When an overdose happens, there is a wide range of signs and symptoms. Each person reacts differently depending on his level of drug tolerance. Factors that affect the signs and symptoms of an overdose include the type of drug taken, the amount of drug taken, and the health condition of the person on the time the drug was taken.
A drug overdose may be identified by the following symptoms:
- Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and even internal bleeding
- Dizziness, drowsiness, seizures and loss of coordination and balance
- Confusion, visual disturbances, hallucinations, sleepiness, and snoring deeply
- Vital signs problems such as breathing difficulties or not breathing at all
- Skin turning blue, cool or sweaty
- Unconsciousness and coma
If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose of drugs, these are the immediate things you can do:
- Do not panic. Keep calm.
- Call for help. Dial triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
- Check any signs of breathing. If unconscious but breathing, place the person on his side, tilting his head back and lifting the chin, making sure the airway is open. Check and monitor his breathing. Continue doing this until help arrives.
- Let the person relax in that position. Do not move him as this could cause a sudden change in his body temperature that can result to shock.
- As much as possible, make the person stay awake until the ambulance arrives.
- Do not try to make the person vomit. This can dangerously choke them.
- Do not make the person eat or drink anything.
- Look around and check for any pill container or pill pack that the person has taken. Bring this to the hospital.
- For further advice and what to do, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26. They are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Even if the person seems fine, asking for further assistance is necessary in cases like this.
If you are the patient and you suspect drug overdose in your body, immediately go to the hospital and seek medical help right away. For immediate help and treatment, the healthcare team will perform the following:
- In the emergency department, the doctor performs full assessment by conducting blood tests, patient observation, and a psychological review.
- Removal of the drug from your body by stomach pumping or by giving you activated charcoal.
- If necessary, the doctor provides an antidote to reverse the effects of the drugs taken.
For everyone who has had an overdose, it is very important to commit to your follow-up appointments with you doctor to make sure you are already out of harm. Your doctor will need to monitor your physical and psychological healing and if required, will advise you to take on further treatment to complete your recovery.