• Drug Overdose Facts
  • During 2004, lifetime non-medical use of prescription drugs was reported by 48 million Americans.
  • Bath Salts can cause side effects such as anxiety, chest pain, intense sweating, palpitations and a feeling of paranoia and impending doom.
  • A characteristic of heroin use is a half-conscious state known as "nodding."
  • Cocaine is most often smuggled into the United States across the Mexican border, where it arrives in powder form and is converted to crack by the wholesaler or retailer.
  • Ativan overdose is can occur and may result in symptoms which may include confusion, convulsions (seizures), drowsiness or coma, shakiness, slow heartbeat, slow reflexes, slurred speech, staggering, troubled breathing, and weakness.
Drug Overdose
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Drug Overdose

A drug overdose occurs when a person consumes more of a drug than their body can tolerate. An overdose may be accidental or intentional, as certain individuals may be unaware of their sensitivities to certain medications. Overdose symptoms can range from the nodding that is related to heroin, to the shaking that has so commonly been associated with crack cocaine and meth; ultimately, each type of overdose can potentially result in death. Individuals who abuse drugs are always walking a fine line between getting high and a serious injury from a drug overdose or even death.

The most common cause of death by a drug overdose is due to combining various drugs, such as taking prescription drugs and alcohol; when drugs are taken together, they can interact in ways that may intensify their effects. Depressants are drugs that can slow down the respiratory system, and a person that abuses these types of drugs may be at risk for serious breathing problems. Stimulant drugs can cause an increase in systems throughout the body and an individual who misuses stimulants can be at an increased risk for seizures and heart attacks. Changes in an individual's health, such as having a bout with illness, can also put them at a higher risk for a drug overdose; additionally, physical changes such as weight loss, may affect an individual's tolerance level and their body's ability to adjust to the drug. When an individual takes drugs while they are alone, it greatly increases the chance of a fatal overdose, as there is no one available to take care of them in the case of a serious drug interaction, and to summon emergency help if necessary.

It is important to note that all drugs have the potential to be misused, regardless of whether they have been prescribed by a family physician, bought on the street, or if they have been purchased over-the-counter at a local pharmacy. Whether an individual misuses a drug by accident or intentionally in order to get high, tens of thousands of patients are treated every single year in the United States for overdose incidents that are drug-related. Many accidental drug overdoses are related to the misuse of over-the-counter medications, that are commonly used as pain relievers and cold remedies. The misuse of prescription medications is commonly reported to be unintentional; accidental overdoses are generally reported to be the result of the drug being overly prescribed or due to the unwitting ingestion by children.

While many individuals that have experienced an overdose can recover without experiencing any long term effects, many of these cases have resulted in death. All types of drugs, including prescription drugs, medicines that are purchased over the counter, or drugs that are purchased illegally have the potential to be abused. When they are taken in combination with other types of drugs and alcohol, even medications that are normally considered to be safe have often been reported to cause serious consequences, such as death. A drug overdose can potentially cause serious physical consequences, such as liver and kidney failure or permanent damage to the respiratory or circulatory system. Many people who survive an overdose will need to have some type of ongoing medical care for the rest of their lives.

Drugs are generally classified in three different categories:

  • Prescription Drugs - These types of drugs are licensed medicines that cannot be obtained without a prescription from a doctor; a type-written label is characteristic of a prescription drug and will indicate that a pharmacists has dispensed the medication. Some examples of prescription medications can include Benzodiazepines, Morphine, and Amphetamines. The largest percentage of prescription drug overdoses is reported to be associated with narcotic painkillers, such as OxyContin or Vicodin.
  • Non-Prescription Drugs - These types of drugs may be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription. Non-prescription OTC drugs can include headache tablets, liquid cough medicines, sinus tablets, or diet pills; these medications are readily available at any retail outlet. Common examples of some of the over-the-counter medications are Vicks Cough Syrup, Sudafed, Robitussin DM, and Sominex Sleep Tablets, just to name a select few.
  • Illicit Drugs - The types of drugs are generally imported, grown or illegally manufactured, and the sale of these substances is prohibited by law. The greatest percentage of drug overdoses throughout the United States is related to the misuse of illicit drugs; this is not surprising, as these types of drugs are purchased on the black market and there is no way to determine exactly what ingredients that they contain. Some of the most common examples of illicit drugs are; heroin, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, and meth.