Overdoses of drugs or chemicals can be either accidental or intentional. Drug overdose occurs when a person takes a drug or substance greater than the recommended dose. Some people may be more sensitive to certain medications to the point that the high end of therapeutic range of a drug may be toxic for them or may even cause death. Illicit drug use in large quantities or usage after a period of drug abstinence can also induce overdose.
Exposure to chemicals, plants, and other toxic substances that can cause harm are called poisonings. The higher the dose or the longer the exposure, the worse the poisoning.
Signs and symptoms of an overdose may vary depending on the drug or toxin exposure. If you suspect a family member or friend to have gotten into drug addiction, it would be helpful to know the signs of drug overdose in case of emergency.
Here are the common signs and symptoms of drug overdose:
- Skin looks blue – lips and fingertips often show first
- Very limp body
- Very pale face
- Throwing up
- Passing out
- Choking sounds or a gurgling/snoring noise
- Slow, irregular, or no pulse (heartbeat)
- Slow, irregular, or not breathing
- Awake but not responsive
However, different types of drugs have different overdose effects. Below are the signs of overdose by drug or substance used:
Alcohol, Heroin, and Barbiturate Overdose: These types of drugs slow the body processes and are very dangerous. Many fatal overdoses result from mixing drugs in this group, such as alcohol and pills.
- Depressed respiration
- Slowed breathing
- Mental muddiness and slowed cognitive processes
- Tiny pupils
Cocaine, Amphetamine, and Methamphetamine Overdose: These drugs speed body processes, and can push the heart so fast that a stroke or heart attack occurs.
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Unstable blood pressure
- Stroke or heart attack
- Rapid breathing
Drug overdose is a serious problem. The quicker an overdose can be identified, the better the chance that the treatment will be successful. Home drug testing kits are a great and convenient way of measuring or monitoring the level of drug abuse by someone in your family.