Drug Overdose Treatment
The term drug overdose, or OD, describes the ingestion or application of a drug or other substance in quantities that are excessive. An overdose is considered harmful and dangerous and can result in death.
Different drugs have different effects on the body's crucial acid/base balance and on certain elements in the blood such as potassium and calcium. Once the overdose drug is identified, blood tests can monitor how fast the drug is clearing out of the body. Urine tests can also screen for some drugs and detect changes in the body's chemistry. Blood and urine tests may show if there is damage to the liver or kidneys as a result of the overdose.
If a drug overdose is known about or suspected and the person is unconscious, having convulsions, or not breathing, call for emergency help immediately.
Emergency medical treatment may include:
Assessment of the patient's airway and breathing to make sure that the trachea, the passage to the lungs is not blocked.
A tube may be inserted through the mouth and into the trachea to help the patient breath. This procedure is called intubation.
Assessment of the patient's heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and other physical signs.
Vomiting may be induced using ipecac syrup or other substances that cause vomiting. Ipecac syrup should not be given to patients who overdosed with tricyclicantidepressants, theophylline, or any drug that causes a significant change in mental status. If a patient vomits while unconscious, there is a serious risk of choking.
Activated charcoal is also sometimes given to absorb the remaining drugs.
An acetaminophen overdose can be treated with an oral medication, N-acetylcysteine (Mucomyst), if the level of acetaminophen found in the blood is extremely high.
Naloxoneis an antinarcotic drug that is given to counteract narcotic poisoning. Nalmefen or methadone may also be used.
While many victims of drug overdose recover without long-term effects, there are also serious consequences. Drug overdoses can cause the failure of major organs like the kidneys or liver, or failure of whole systems like the respiratory or circulatory systems. Patients who survive drug overdose may need kidney dialysis, kidney or liver transplant, or ongoing care as a result of heart failure, stroke, or coma. Death can occur in almost any drug overdosesituation, particularly if treatment does not begin immediately.
Once immediate health problems and symptoms subside and are treated, actions must be taken to get the drug user into a drug treatment program to get help for their addiction.