February 16, 2017
If you can’t wake someone and you believe they have overdosed, call an ambulance immediately by dialling triple zero (000).
An overdose happens when a toxic amount of a drug or a combination of drugs causes a severe adverse reaction. This can happen because too much is taken or because different drugs are taken at the same time. Combining drugs increases the chances of overdose.1
Overdoses can be accidental or intentional. An intentional overdose occurs when a person deliberately takes a drug/s to harm themselves. Accidental overdose can happen for many reasons:
The drug taken was different to what was expected. With illegal drugs, it’s impossible to know what’s really in them or how strong they are.1 With new psychoactive substances (‘synthetic drugs’) becoming available and being added to many illegal drugs, it’s more likely that you won’t know what you’re taking. For example, there are reports of NBOMes being added to ecstasy pills.3
Alcohol and other drugs affect memory, thinking and judgement. When you’re drunk or ‘high’ you’re usually not thinking about the risks of overdosing.1 And it’s easy to forget what and how much you’ve taken. It also means it’s easy to decide to take more or mix drugs, without enough thought for the possible risks.
The decision to take a drug was based on someone else’s reaction to it. Drugs affect everyone differently based on:
Some signs of a depressant drug overdose are:
Some signs of a stimulant drug overdose are:
Paracetamol is the most common form of overdose leading to hospitalisation.
Signs of paracetamol overdose include:
These effects are usually not felt straight away. However, it’s important to get help immediately after taking the tablets as serious damage to the body has usually happened by the time these effects are felt.
Non-fatal overdoses may still cause permanent organ damage. The liver and the kidneys are two organs at very high risk. Overdose can also cause brain damage if someone stops breathing, or if their breathing patterns restrict oxygen to the brain.7
If someone looks like they are in trouble and can’t be woken after drinking alcohol or using drugs, it’s very important that they get medical help quickly. A quick response can save their life.
Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) reverses the effects of heroin and other opioids, particularly in the case of an overdose. Medical professionals can give naloxone via injection. Friends and family can also buy naxolone directly from a pharmacy or with a prescription, which is subsidised.