Drug overdose (whether intentional or accidental) is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Drug overdoses now cause more deaths than motor vehicle accidents. In fact, 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses alone.
“Opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, more than any year on record. At least half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.” (Source: CDC.gov)
No longer are heroin overdoses limited to partying rock-stars, or the homeless or unemployed. Rather, heroin and other opioids are making their way into every socioeconomic group without discrimination. With that comes an increased risk of overdose. There are things that can be done to help with opioid overdose prevention, and thankfully more laws are being passed in California and several other states to not only save people from dying from overdose, but also to protect the people who call for help.
Drug Overdose Symptoms
Drug overdose sometimes leads to death, but if caught in time, an overdose may be able to be reversed or managed. During an overdose, the person’s temperature, pulse, respiratory rate or blood pressure may change in a life threatening way. Aspiration (vomit being breathed into lungs) is another concern. A person experiencing a drug overdose may experience muscle spasms, seizures and/or loss of consciousness, which could lead to a comatose state. A person’s brain, liver and/or kidney function may be permanently damaged secondary to drug overdose.
Why Opioid Overdose Occurs so Frequently
It’s first important to realize what is classified as an opioid. Not all opioids are illegal – in fact opioids are often prescribed following a surgery or injury in the form of painkillers. Hydrocodone (Vicodin®), oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®), morphine and codeine are all opiates that may be obtained by prescription. Of course, these opiates may also be obtained illegally on the streets, along with the most well known illegal opiate – heroin.
Because there are so many types of opiates available by prescription, or on the street, there is a very high chance of overdose, whether a person takes a high dose intentionally or not. While some opioid overdoses are certainly considered intentional, more often than not, opioid overdoses occur as a result of accidentally taking too high of a dose of a prescribed drug, or for taking a more potent batch of illicit drugs. In the case of heroin, for example, one batch may be more pure than another, or may be cut with different ingredients and may even include another type of drug. In these situations, a person may overdose even though they are using the “same” amount of drug that they used previously. Overdose may also occur following a period of abstinence when the person begins using again and even may happen the first time someone uses heroin or another opioid.
Opioid Overdose Prevention Tools
If caught soon enough, medication may be administered to a person that has recently overdosed as an antidote. Naloxone is a non-narcotic opioid antidote that may prevent death in some cases of opiate overdose. Naloxone blocks the effects of the opiate and often restores breathing within a few minutes of being administered. In California, and several other states, Naloxone is now available in some pharmacies without a prior prescription, however, self-care should never be attempted in the event of a drug overdose. Many may fear being arrested if they call for help for someone experiencing an overdose, however, California is one of twenty states that currently have a Good Samaritan law in place to protect a person who calls for medical help from receiving criminal punishment for themselves or the person experiencing the overdose. Many emergency responders now carry naloxone with them in order to treat an overdose in an effort to prevent death.
Finding a Rehab for Opioid Addiction
While tools like the Good Samaritan Law and naloxone are pivotal in saving lives in the event of overdosing, following up with some form of rehab is the only way to save a person’s live in the long-term. Drug rehab is what will treat a person’s addiction and give them the necessary tools to achieve sobriety and hopefully avoid another overdose situation in the future. If you, or a loved one, have experienced an overdose, but haven’t received addiction treatment, please give our drug counselors a call today.