People can overdose on lots of substances, including alcohol, Tylenol, opioids or a mixture of drugs. Opioid overdoses happen when there are so many opioids or a combination of opioids and other drugs in the body that the person is not responsive to stimulation and/or breathing is really shallow. This happens because opioids affect the body’s drive to breathe. If someone cannot breathe or is not breathing enough, the oxygen levels in the blood decrease and the lips and fingers turn blue- this is called cyanosis. This lack of oxygen eventually stops other vital organs like the heart, then the brain. This leads to unconsciousness, coma, and then death. With opioid overdoses, surviving or dying wholly depends on breathing and oxygen. Fortunately, this process is rarely instantaneous; people slowly stop breathing which usually happens minutes to hours after the drug was used. While people have been ‘found dead with a needle in their arm,’ more often there is time to intervene between when an overdose starts and before a person dies.
Video on Opioid Overdose Risk Factors: This 18 minute video provides detailed information about factors that increase risk overdose when taking opioids.
There currently exists debate over which method to use in an overdose situation, rescue breathing or chest compressions. Each agency should review the evidence and decide what is best to help meet their community need. Resources on this page and on this website are meant as examples only and some material may contain information which […]More Info