When to Seek Medical Care
Your doctor, your local poison center, or the emergency department of your local hospital may be able to help determine the seriousness of a suspected drug overdose. Development of any symptoms after drug overdose requires immediate and accurate information about the specific name of the drug, the amount of the drug ingested, and the time when the drug was taken. Often, the bottle the drug came in will have the information needed.
- Some doctors' offices are equipped to handle overdoses; others are not. Some doctors' offices advise their patients to go to a hospital's emergency department. In life-threatening circumstances, an ambulance should usually be summoned by calling 911.
- You are not expected to know when a drug overdose is serious. If you cannot reach a qualified professional by telephone to discuss the overdose, it would be prudent for you to take the overdosed person to the nearest hospital's emergency department or medical facility.
Take appropriate caution when dealing with drug overdose. Each person responds differently, and reactions are hard to predict. Many people who are directed to go to the emergency department may not develop any physical signs of poisoning. Others will become quite ill.
- A person unwilling to go to the hospital may need persuasion by trained professionals in emergency medical services (paramedics and ambulance personnel) or the law enforcement community. You may call 911 for these services. Family members are also often helpful in persuading the person to seek medical care.
- Anyone who is with a person who overdoses on drugs can assist by finding all medication or chemical containers and bringing them to the emergency department doctor.
Exams and Tests
A history and physical examination to look for evidence of poisoning will be performed. The doctor will order laboratory tests based on the organ systems that can be harmed by the specific drug overdose.
- Family members and associates are an important source of information. They can assist in providing the doctor with names of drugs, amounts taken, and timing of overdose.
- Specific drug levels in the blood may be measured, depending on the drug taken and the reason for the overdose.
- Drug screening may also be done.