What Happens During Opioid Overdose?

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The toxicity of opioids is well known in that those who take these drugs in high doses can experience extremely damaging effects, chief among them overdose. In order to avoid narcotic toxicity, one must stop abusing these drugs and seek help for their addiction. Call (800) 407-7195 today for help finding the best treatment program for your needs.

What is Opioid Overdose?

Overdose occurs when someone takes a high dose of a specific drug, usually one higher than prescribed, and the individual experiences dangerous side effects brought on by the drug. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this can occur when someone deliberately misuses their medication––or an illicit narcotic like heroin––or when someone accidentally takes too much of a drug. People do not always intentionally overdose, but no matter the reason, the results are always dangerous.

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What Happens to the Brain and Body During Opioid Overdose?

Narcotics affect the brain and body in a number of ways. They reduce feelings of pain and anxiety, slow breathing and other bodily functions, and (when taken in large doses) cause euphoria. They can also cause nausea, constipation, and a number of other side effects. However, when a person takes an extremely large dose of opioids, they are likely to experience a number of serious issues.

Opioid Overdose

Pinpoint pupils are a sign of opioid overdose.

  • The individual will usually become extremely drowsy, which is common at any time during opioid use. However, this can be so extreme in an overdose situation that individuals pass out or even slip into comas where they will become virtually unwakeable.
  • The individual’s pupils will become very small (National Library of Medicine). While this is common among those intoxicated by narcotics (as opposed to stimulants, which cause pupil size to increase), a person who has overdosed will have pupils so small that they look like the head of a pin. This is why this effect is called pinpoint pupils.
  • The individual’s bodily functions will slow considerably during an overdose, chief among them their breathing and heartbeat. Many individuals die because they will begin to breathe too shallowly or stop breathing at all. And because the individual is likely to be drowsy or may even have fallen into a deep sleep or coma, they will not be able to realize they need help.
  • When the body is then unable to get enough oxygen, the individual dies.

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “When abused, even a single large dose can cause severe respiratory depression and death.” This is why the issue of opioid overdose is so serious and why it is important to understand the issue of narcotic toxicity when taking any drugs in this class.

What Happens in Treatment for Opioid Overdose?

If a person is brought to the hospital in time, these symptoms can often be reversed. However, time is of the essence, and the longer someone goes without treatment, the more likely it is that the overdose will become fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Opioids (including prescription pain relievers and heroin) killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, more than any year on record.”

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  • In the hospital, the person will often be checked quickly for their physical state, and the doctors will want to know how much the individual took and what they took.
  • Then, they will likely be given naloxone. This drug, according to the NLM, works by blocking the effects of the opioids in the individual’s body and reducing the symptoms caused by overdose almost instantly.
  • Often, the individual will awaken and experience pain, as the effects of the opioids are no longer in their system. However, this also means they are no longer under the influence of a dangerous, high-level dose of opioids. The healthcare providers at the hospital will likely want to watch them and make sure they do not need another dose, but this usually means treatment has been successful.

How Good Samaritan Laws Save Addicts from Overdose and Promote Treatment

Seek Help for Opioid Abuse Today

If you have been abusing illicit or prescription narcotics and do not believe you will be able to stop on your own, it is much safer to seek treatment for this issue and to let professionals teach you the skills you will need to live in recovery. Call (800) 407-7195 now. We can help you find a safe, reliable rehab center that can cater to your needs.

the Take-Away

Know the signs of an opioid overdose and how it’s treated so you can get yourself or a loved one the necessary professional help.