Major signs that an opioid overdose is happening in a person include unconsciousness, pinpoint pupils, and demonstrated trouble breathing (shallow breaths or gurgling).
An opioid overdose occurs when a person takes too much of a known drug, takes a strong opioid (like fentanyl) unknowingly, or mixes opioids with other substances.
Approximately 70% of all overdoses in the U.S are from opioids. Opioid overdose can affect a person’s mental and physical well-being in both the short-term and long-term.
Short-Term Symptoms Of Opioid Overdose
When a person takes opioid drugs like heroin, hydrocodone, or fentanyl in a greater amount than their body is accustomed to, the results can produce dangerous effects.
Because opioids work to depress the central nervous system, an excess of these drugs can affect functions like breathing, heart rate, and proper blood flow.
When opioids are used alongside other CNS depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines, overdoses can occur due to the cumulative effect of these substances, leading to hospitalization and death.
Recognizable symptoms of an opioid overdose include:
- shallow breathing
- choking, gurgling, or labored breathing
- cold and clammy skin
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Long-Term Effects Of Opioid Overdose
People that survive the effects of an opioid overdose often receive medical treatment that involves the timely application of naloxone, which immediately sends the person into withdrawals.
An opioid overdose affects how effectively oxygen is transported to the brain because of slowed breathing and heart rate.
With extended periods of low oxygen to the brain (hypoxia) or no oxygen (anoxia), a person that survives an overdose may experience continued problems with the heart and brain.
Toxic brain injury from overdose can change the way the brain transmits signals, releases hormones, and relates to nutrients.
These changes to the way the brain functions after an overdose can result in memory loss, personality changes, and loss of executive function.
In addition to brain damage, opioid overdose can lead to:
- nerve damage
- kidney failure
- heart failure
Getting Help For Opioid Abuse After An Overdose
People with a substance use disorder that involves opioids are at a high risk of dangerous overdose and death. If you or a loved one abuses opioid drugs, it’s never too late to make a change.
Some combination of medically assisted detox, inpatient rehab, and behavioral therapies can help people struggling with opioid use.
Call today to learn more about the best options for you.
Published on June 9, 2021
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Opioid Overdose
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opioid Addiction