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.
Who can Overdose?
Anyone who uses substances (whether they are a new or long-term user) can overdose. A person may be more at risk of an overdose depending on:
- Substance(s) taken
- How much of a substance or substances were taken
- How strong and the quality of the substance(s) used
- If the substance(s) were cut with other drugs
- How the substance(s) were taken (i.e. orally, snorted, injected, etc.)
- Tolerance to the substance(s) used
- Health status (if there are any existing medical conditions)
- Setting where use occurs (e.g. using alone versus in a group)
- New supply or buying from a new dealer.
Overdose Prevention Tip
|How substance is taken||
Recognizing an Opioid Overdose
Keep in mind that drugs may be combined, so you might see other symptoms. 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
- Loss of consciousness
*The difference between “the nods” and an overdose is unresponsiveness (not responding to shouting, shaking, etc.)
Responding to an Opioid Overdose
- Stimulate (shake shoulders, shout)
- Call 911
- Give Naloxone
- Chest compressions and rescue breathing
- Check (give another dose of naloxone after 3-5 minutes if no change)
The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit provides training and naloxone kits. See Naloxone Kits for more information.