August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day. A global event that is held annually with the aim of raising understanding around overdoses, reducing the stigma of drug-related deaths, and acknowledging the grief felt by those left behind.
The campaign spreads the message that the tragedy of drug overdose death is preventable.
An overdose means having more of a drug, or combination of drugs, in your system than your body can cope with. Typically, it is the ingestion, application, or injection of a substance in quantities much greater than recommended or prescribed.
An overdose (sometimes called an OD) can have serious, harmful, and fatal consequences.
The USA and UK saw an estimated 115,000 people die as a result of a drug overdose in 2020; the total drug-related deaths worldwide in that year exceeded half a million.
Overdose can happen to someone of any age, at any time. Whether the drug is illicit (such as cocaine or heroin), prescription medication, or an over-the-counter remedy. It can happen the first time someone takes a substance or if they are a regular user.
Accidental overdose – this can occur if a person takes the wrong substance or combination of substances, if they take an incorrect amount, or at the incorrect time; without understanding that it could be harmful or dangerous to do so. Unintentional misuse can happen by failing to read or understand product labels and instructions. Children have also been known to unwittingly take drugs, mistaking them for sweets or candy.
This category can also include those who take drugs to get high or change the way they feel emotionally – but don’t realise exactly what they are taking, its strength, or what it has been cut (mixed) with.
Some overdoses occur after a person has left a drug treatment program or finished a stay at a rehabilitation centre. Part of the treatment includes a detox when all traces of a substance are removed from the system. If a person has completed detox and then takes the same quantity of drugs they took prior to the process, it can lead to an overdose as the body is no longer tolerant to the same dose.
Intentional overdose – this is when a person takes an overdose deliberately to inflict harm on themselves. This could be a suicide attempt or a cry out for help.
With most drugs, there are more accidental deaths than deliberate overdoses.
Your risks of drug-related harm are increased if you take more than one substance at a time or if your body is not used to taking a certain substance.
There are several signs that show someone has overdosed, everyone reacts differently, and they will also differ depending on the drug taken. Medical help should be sought if any of the following symptoms occur:
• Muscle spasms/seizures
• Chest pains
• Breathing difficulties
• Agitation, confusion, or paranoia
• Blue lips and nails (due to low blood oxygen)
• Pinpoint pupils
• Slow heart rate
• Increased heart or pulse rate
• High blood pressure
If you suspect someone you love has overdosed, call for emergency medical help immediately. Give as many accurate details as possible about what transpired and try to provide any attending medical personnel with as much information as possible.
For example – What type of drugs were taken? How long ago were they taken? And how much? The more details you can provide, the better help can be given.
Some of the causal effects by drug type –
Depressants – (such as benzodiazepines, sedatives, and barbiturates) will slow down the body’s vitals, including heart rate and breathing.
Opioids – (including heroin, fentanyl, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone) slow down the body’s central nervous system.
If these are taken individually in excess, or in combination with each other it depresses the body’s normal functions until the heart stops pumping and breathing ceases.
Stimulants/Amphetamines – (such as cocaine, speed, methamphetamine, MDMA, some ADHD medication) can cause extremely high (and dangerous) blood pressure, increased heart rate, which can overwhelm the body and lead to a heart attack or stroke.
More than 70% of drug deaths worldwide are attributable to opioids, with 30% of these being down to overdoses.
The opioid family of pharmaceuticals includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil, and prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine. These work in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain. They are naturally found in the opium poppy plant or manufactured in a laboratory.
Regularly given as pain relief after an injury or surgery, opioids are highly addictive. Over time they change the chemistry in the brain, meaning individuals will require higher or more frequent doses to get the desired result. Long-term use can lead to addiction and dependency, which can cause physical and psychological symptoms if the drug is withdrawn.
Addicts crave a substance and will go to any lengths to continue its use, putting the use of drugs over everything else in their lives – work, health, and family. Described as the opioid epidemic, the last 30 years have seen huge numbers of people suffering from problems relating to the medical and recreational use of opioids – including addiction, criminality, health and financial issues and a massive increase in overdose deaths.
A medically supervised drug detox, followed by residential rehabilitation, is the route most often favoured for the treatment of a serious opioid addiction. A good rehab treatment centre will work with the client to address their physical dependency whilst looking at the underlying reasons behind the misuse of the drug, or drugs, in the first place.
Therapies such as individual and group counselling, CBT and transcranial magnetic stimulation have all proven successful in the treatment of problems relating to illicit and prescription opioid drugs and addiction.
Located on the Spanish Balearic Island of Ibiza, our luxury, private, residential rehab centre is the perfect place to get help. We offer a range of therapies for the treatment of substance abuse problems, drug, alcohol, and process addiction, eating disorders, and other mental health-related conditions, including anxiety, depression, OCD, and codependency.
We have had great success with treatments such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), cognitive behavioural (CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR).
For details on admissions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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