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What is an overdose?

What is an overdose?

An overdose happens when too much of a drug or poison is taken. An overdose is also known as OD’ing or OD. Taking too much of a drug or poison leads to a toxic effect on the body. Most of the time the body can take care of itself but when an individual takes too much of a substance, sometimes, death can occur instantly or slowly as the substances cannot be expelled by the body’s own methods.

The most common drugs that can cause overdose are alcohol, prescription narcotics, and over-the-counter medication, and heroin. An overdose should always be taken very seriously because it can cause death.

Whether or not a person can overdose depends on their tolerance and their tolerance can vary based on their age, the state of their health, how the substance was consumed and other factors. The body will usually heal with or without treatment after an overdose. However some people don’t make it back from overdoses. Death from overdoses can happen instantly or slowly overtime if organs are damaged. Treatment for an overdose may be quick and easy or may include long-term treatment such as an alcohol rehab center or longer hospitalization.

Depending on the substance, the symptoms of an overdose can vary immensely. The symptoms of an overdose can vary on the person too. Signs and symptoms of an overdose are determined by how the substance was taken, the amount that was taken and the person’s health at the time of taking it.

Here are some general symptoms of an overdose:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance
  • Seizures (fitting)
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Internal bleeding
  • Hallucination
  • Visual disturbances
  • Coma

An overdose can happen on accident or even on purpose if the individual is suicidal. An accidental overdose usually occurs when the wrong combination of drugs is taken, the wrong amount of drugs is taken, or the drugs are taken at the wrong times without the person knowing it could cause them to overdose. An overdose that happens intentionally is because the person is trying to overdose to get high or to inflict self-harm. In less extreme cases this can be a cry for help and in more extreme cases it can be a suicide attempt.

All individuals who are taking substances are at a risk of an overdose but some groups of individuals are at a higher risk. For instance:

  • Young adults
  • Middle-aged people
  • Women are more likely to overdose than men

The risk of an overdose is significantly increased when an individual is taking more than one substance at a time. For instance, alcohol and benzodiazepines, acetaminophen and cough syrup that also has acetaminophen (most people are not aware that cough syrup contains acetaminophen) etc.

If someone you know has overdosed there are things you can do to help save them:

  • Call 911
  • Stay calm
  • Do not try to make the person vomit
  • Do not try to give them anything to eat or drink
  • Bring the bottles of whatever they ingested to the hospital
  • Call Poison Control Center

The best way to avoid an overdose all together is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is also important in order to avoid an overdose to always read the medication labels when taking any kind of drug whether it is over-the-counter or prescribed. Some other ways to avoid overdose are to avoid drugs all together before talking to your doctor, always inform your doctor of medication you’re taking, keep all drug and toxic substances locked away from children.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for Alcohol or Drug Addiction please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at


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