If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.

Dangers of Overdosing

What Does It Mean to Overdose?

A drug overdose occurs when you take more than the recommended amount of one or more drugs which can affect your body’s ability to function properly. It can happen intentionally or accidentally and can occur with both illegal and legal drugs.

Immediate Effects of Overdosing

Effects of a drug overdose vary based on the type of drug, or drugs, a person has overdosed on. For example, stimulants (drugs that increase brain activity) may increase breathing and heart rate, while opioids (used for pain management) may decrease or stop breathing and heart rate altogether. Some overdose effects may be easy to notice by the person who took the drugs or others around them while some effects may be harder to notice because there are no obvious signs. Here are some signs that may indicate a person has recently overdosed:

Type of Effect Signs
Responsiveness Loss of consciousness, unresponsive, tiredness
Physical Heart attack, stroke, seizure, change in breathing (rapid, slow, stopped), choking, gurgling sounds, blue or purple lips or fingertips, slurred speech, vomiting, pale skin, change in heart rate (irregular, slow, fast), increased body temperature, dehydration, high blood pressure
Mental Confusion, panic, paranoia, hallucinations, aggressiveness

Long-Term Effects of Overdosing

A single overdose can have lasting or permanent effects on your body up to and including death. These can be caused by things like falling during an overdose, blood circulation issues or the position your body is in when you overdose, especially if you remain in that state for a long time. Here are some long-term signs to look out for:

Type of Effect Signs
Neural Brain or nerve damage, Toxic Brain Injury
Physical Loss of vision or hearing, limb paralysis, limping, limb amputation, compartment syndrome (build-up of pressure around muscles that restricts flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the area), organ damage
Mortality Death

What To Do If You or Someone with You Overdoses

If you suspect that someone you know has either intentionally or accidentally overdosed, seek help immediately. Immediate action can help prevent more serious consequences.

Call 911 (or the local emergency service if not in the US) – As soon as you suspect someone youare with has overdosed, call or have someone else call 911. Make sure you give the operator your exact location, whether the person is conscious/breathing and that you suspect an overdose. If you know the drug or medication they took, report that as well. Stay with the person until help arrives.

Stay awake – If you think someone may have overdosed, it is important to keep them awake until help arrives. Ask them questions or just talk to them to keep them awake. If the person is unconscious, try to wake them up either by yelling their name (if known), yelling in general or performing a sternum rub.

Administer Narcan– In 2023, the FDA approved Narcan for over-the-counter, nonprescription use for treatment of opioid overdose. A dose of Narcan can help reverse the effects of an opioid drug for 30-90 minutes. Still contact emergency services because once the medication wears off, the person can overdose again if the opioids were not cleared from their system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Narcan can still be administered if you are unsure if an opioid is the cause of the overdose as it will not have any effect otherwise.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.