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Opioids and Overdoses


What is an Overdose?

An overdose is when there is too much of a drug (or drugs) in a person’s body and it affects their body’s ability to maintain basic functions needed for life (such as breathing and heart rate). In an opioid overdose, what usually happens is that a person’s breathing slows or stops. Not everyone who overdoses will die but there can be long-term effects such as brain damage from lack of oxygen.

Recognizing an Opioid Overdose

Signs of an opioid overdose include:

  • Slow, erratic or no breathing
  • Blue lips, nails or skin
  • Limp body
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Doesn’t respond to shouting or shaking
  • Deep snoring or gurgling sounds
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

*The difference between “the nods” and an overdose is unresponsiveness (not responding to shouting, shaking, etc.)

Responding to an Opioid Overdose

  1. Stimulate (shake shoulders, shout)
  2. Call 911
  3. Give Naloxone
  4. Chest compressions (if trained in first aid and comfortable to do so)
  5. Check (give another dose of naloxone after 3-5 minutes if no change)

  • Put the person in a cold bath

  • Make the person vomit

  • Inject person with anything other than naloxone (e.g. saltwater, cocaine, milk)

  • Let the person sleep it off

  • The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit and participating pharmacies can provide naloxone kits for free. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that temporarily reverses the effects of opioid overdose. It is still important to call 911 as the person may require multiple doses, and may slip back into overdose.

    The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides certain protections if you are present when emergency services are called.

    Kits and training are available from the following locations:

    • 12 Gilbertson Drive, Simcoe ON
    • 100 Haddington Street, Caledonia ON
    • 117 Forest St. E., Dunnville ON

    Injectable naloxone is also available free of charge in many pharmacies. Call ConnexOntario Helpline at 1-800-565-8603, visit or use the interactive map.