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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Drug Overdose

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Self-Care at Home

Home care should not be done without first consulting a doctor or poison expert.

  • For some accidental drug overdoses, the local poison control center may recommend home therapy and observation. Because of the potential for problems after some overdoses, syrup of ipecac or other therapies should not be given unless directed by a medical professional.
  • Most people have telephone access to a local poison control center. Locate the closest one to you through the American Association of Poison Control Centers (www.aapcc.org) or by calling 1-800-222-1222.
  • Anyone who has small children at home should have the "poison line" telephone number readily available near the telephone.
  • People who take a drug overdose in an attempt to harm themselves generally require psychiatric intervention in addition to poison management. People who overdose for this purpose must be taken to a hospital's emergency department, even if their overdose seems trivial. These people are at risk for eventually achieving a completed suicide. The sooner you intervene, the better the success of avoiding suicide.
  • The FDA has approved a prescription treatment that can be used by family members or caregivers to treat a person known or suspected to have had an opioid overdose. Opioids include various prescription pain medications and illicit street drugs. An overdose is characterized by slowed breathing and heart rate and a loss of consciousness. Evzio (naloxone hydrochloride injection) rapidly delivers a single dose of the drug naloxone via a hand-held auto-injector that can be carried in a pocket or stored in a medicine cabinet. Although Evzio can counter overdose effects within minutes, professional medical help is still needed. 

 

Next Steps Follow-up

Everyone who suffers an overdose needs to be seen by his or her doctor for follow-up. In part, this is to ensure that there are no delayed injuries to any organ system. It is also to make sure that prevention against a recurrence is in place. 

  • After an intentional drug overdose has been managed and the person is out of danger, psychiatric care needs to be provided. The abuser of illicit drugs should also be considered for a mental health evaluation. Finding a support group for a psychiatric or substance abuse problem can be very helpful.
  • For children, the experience of being treated for an overdose may have been frightening. They need help in coping with the trauma as well as learning from the mistake. Following up with their pediatrician can reduce anxiety and also be a good learning experience. The same is true for their parents. Do not point fingers or assign guilt. Use the follow-up visit to discuss prevention and safety.

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