Overdose Prevention Planning Guide

An overdose can be a scary event that leads to severe aftereffects or even death. This can be even worse if you are using or overdosing on multiple substances simultaneously. It’s also possible to overdose on two substances that have opposite effects, such as taking a depressant and stimulant at the same time.

When you have finished reading, you’ll know more about common overdose symptoms, the typical reasons for overdose, and some prevention techniques that may help you avoid such a dangerous situation.

What Is an Overdose?

An overdose refers to what happens when you take too much of a substance and it causes severe symptoms to manifest. Overdose symptoms differ largely based on the substance. For example, cocaine overdose symptoms are much different than heroin overdose symptoms.

The amount that creates an overdose itself can also be different. It might only take a small amount of one substance but a fairly large amount of another to overdose because of the differences in the drugs. Not only that, but you have to consider your personal tolerance. This is especially true if you relapse after being sober for a while because you may use a large amount that your body is no longer accustomed to.

In general, an overdose means that a person is using a toxic amount of a particular substance. There is no specific dose amount that equals an overdose because it depends on so many factors. You might also be surprised to know that many substances, even legitimate medicines like aspirin, can lead to overdose symptoms if you use too much.

If you or a loved one are facing a possible overdose on any substance, then it is imperative that you seek medical care as quickly as possible.

Most Common Substances in Fatal Overdoses

An overdose is a very significant event that can be fatal, especially if you don’t get the help that you need immediately. While many substances can be fatal if used in high enough quantities, you might be wondering what the most common substances are that lead to death.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the three major substances that cause overdose deaths are cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids. The most common opioids involved in death are fentanyl and heroin, but an overdose can occur with any opioid.

While these three drugs are the most common, keep in mind that this does not mean that other substances are safe. Not only that, but using multiple substances simultaneously increases the odds of overdosing while making it more difficult to recover from the event.

Overdose Symptoms

Knowing when an overdose is happening can be key to saving your life. We will cover some of the most common overdose symptoms so that you know what to look out for. Keep in mind that even the most common symptoms are not guaranteed to happen. You might feel something completely different than the typical response, and it might be difficult to get help on your own.

If you feel any of these symptoms, then be sure to seek immediate medical attention as quickly as possible. If you are using with others, then make sure that everyone is aware of the symptoms and what to do if an overdose occurs. Taking the right actions quickly might save your life or someone else’s life.

As mentioned, there are three most common substances that people overdose on, but the most common overall would be opioids. The most common opioid overdose symptoms include:

• Very pale skin, especially in the face
• Clammy skin
• A limp and unresponsive body
• Fingernails looking blue or purple
• Vomiting and gurgling noises
• Being unresponsive and unable to talk
• Slow heartbeat and shallow breathing

Using naloxone may be essential because it can stop the overdose symptoms from progressing, but you may not have any available. If you have it, then use it if you or anyone else is experiencing an opioid overdose. If you don’t have any, then seek immediate medical attention. Keep in mind that naloxone only works for opioid overdoses. It does not affect overdoses caused by other substances.

While opioid overdose is by far the most common, cocaine and methamphetamine can cause overdoses as well. Cocaine overdoses symptoms include:

• Severe anxiety or agitation
• Feeling very high or excited
• Muscle tremors, especially in the fingers and face
• Enlarged pupils
• Increased heartbeat
• Nausea and vomiting
• Seizures
• Inability to control urine
• Blue or pale skin

Another thing to keep in mind with cocaine is that it’s very commonly cut with other substances. This happens more with cocaine than with most other substances. This commonality means that you might overdose on a completely different substance or that using multiple substances might make the overdose even worse.

Methamphetamine, more commonly known as meth, is a powerful stimulant that causes numerous health issues. While it’s not as popular as heroin and other opioids now, it’s still very dangerous, and you should know about the overdose symptoms.

The most common meth overdose symptoms include:

• Coma
• Severe agitation
• Chest pains
• Heart attack
• Trouble breathing
• Excessive body temperature
• Paranoia
• Seizures
• Stroke

As you might notice, every overdose symptom is different depending on what substance you are using. The important thing to note is that many of the symptoms are severe and can lead to lasting issues. Keep this in mind, and be prepared to call the hospital if you have any significant symptoms.

Overdose Prevention

While it’s easy to say that the best way to prevent an overdose is to not use in the first place, that’s not helpful and belittles what you’re going through. There are actually a lot of skills and tricks that can help to prevent an overdose or reduce the likelihood of one occurring.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is your tolerance. If you have been using a substance such as heroin or any opioids for a long period of time, then you have likely developed tolerance. This is when your body becomes adjusted to having a certain amount of a substance. That amount may have caused you to get high before, but now it does almost nothing.

If you stopped using or if you went through detox, then you might run into this issue. Your body is no longer used to those high doses. You might use your normal amount from before the detox, but that amount can now cause you to overdose. This happens to be one of the most vulnerable times for an overdose.

If you are going to use, then it’s best to only use one substance at a time. This reduces the likelihood of the substances interacting and building in your body. If you are going to be using multiple substances, then it’s best to use a lower amount than usual to reduce the odds of overdosing.

Mixing alcohol with substances can increase the odds of overdosing. If you are going to use alcohol, then it’s best not to do so after taking the substance. Alcohol impairs your judgment, and you might use far more of a substance than you normally would. These are just a couple of tips that can reduce the odds of overdosing.

Medical Detox Program

If you are seeking to recover from substances or finding that you are using very high amounts, then you may want to consider a medical detox program. While some people can stop using on their own, a medical detox program makes the process much easier.

What is the difference between detoxing at home and a medical detox program? One of the major differences is that a detox program connects you with a doctor who will watch over your symptoms. Many people suffer from withdrawal symptoms or they end up using more than ever once they feel uncomfortable from the discontinuation. The doctor will be able to monitor your symptoms and prescribe medications as needed to make it easier.

Some substances, such as cocaine, don’t have any medications to improve the cravings themselves. Other substances do have available medications to help with cravings, including heroin and other opioids.

If you want to stop using any substances and wish to do so in the most comfortable and safest way possible, then consider a medical detox program. This also improves the odds of you overcoming the substance because you’ll be connected with support when you need it.

Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient Care

Outpatient care ensures that you can get help for your substance use without the treatment becoming too overbearing in your life. Many people worry that recovery will take too long or that they won’t be able to enjoy their lives while they are getting treatment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Not only can therapy improve your life, but outpatient treatment also ensures that you get the support you need without requiring too many hours from your day. There are two main levels of care when it comes to outpatient treatment.

Outpatient treatment, often called individual sessions, is when you meet individually with your assigned therapist. We will be sure to find a therapist who suits your needs and preferences. You will work with your therapist to explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors involved with substance use and anything else that you wish to work on.

Many people enjoy this because they can freely explore areas of themselves that they might be worried about sharing with others. This type of treatment most commonly occurs for one hour a week, but more or less might be suggested based on your needs.

Intensive outpatient, or IOP, is the next step up. This type of treatment has you meeting with a group of other clients who are also seeking to recover from substance use. A trained therapist will ensure that norms are followed as you learn from each other. The best thing about group therapy is that you can learn from what your peers are doing. You can see what is or isn’t working for them. Many clients find this helpful because recovery can be difficult to navigate alone.

IOP treatment usually consists of three weekly sessions, and each session typically lasts for three hours. This gives you more care than with individual sessions. You can often combine the two for even more care.

At First City Recovery Center, we have been helping clients with substance use concerns. While opioids are most commonly recognized for leading to overdoses, there are many other substances that you can overdose on. It’s important to be as safe as possible while recognizing the symptoms so that you know how to react.

If you are worried about suffering from an overdose, have recently gone through one, or are looking to recover for any other reason, then we are here for you. Contact us today so that we can create a tailored treatment plan that addresses your specific needs.

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