In 2019, there were almost 71,000 overdose deaths in the United States, and 2020 was even worse, with a record 93,331 Americans dying from drug overdoses. A disproportionately large percentage of these deaths (70 percent) were due to opioids, both prescription and synthetic. The unfortunate reality of drug overdoses is that they are entirely preventable, and yet the likelihood of someone overdosing a second time increases after their first.
Why do overdoses happen?
There are a variety of reasons why and how a person overdoses. Most commonly, overdoses happen for one of two reasons:
- A person has been sober for a period of time or has completed a period of detox/withdrawal and then they decide to use again. Usually, in these instances, that person will use the same amount as before they became sober, but their body is no longer able to handle that amount of the drug.
- The drug used is either laced with another substance (such as fentanyl), or it is used in combination with another substance that creates an adverse reaction and leads to an overdose.
At the end of the day, there are many reasons why a person overdoses and how it happens, but it is a preventable disease that must be addressed before this epidemic becomes even worse.
Overdose prevention techniques
One of the main ways overdoses can be prevented is by increasing access to resources. Not only does accessibility greatly improve the chances that people will get help before they reach the point of overdosing, but they can also educate bystanders on what to do in the event that they witness an overdose.
Though every substance is different, and some may cause physical withdrawal while others cause psychological symptoms, an overdose may look like this:
- Loss of consciousness
- Shallow breathing
If a person is experiencing any of these symptoms, whether they are actually overdosing or not, calling 911 and getting them medical help as soon as possible is the best chance at ensuring they do not die. Remaining by their side and administering Naloxone (if available) is also key, especially if they have overdosed on opioids.
Naloxone is a medication that rapidly removes any opioids that are present in the body. It is the only way to reverse an opioid overdose, and can save a life. Not only is it vital to keep on hand if you suspect someone is misusing opioids, but it is also available at most pharmacies and online without a prescription. You can check your local pharmacies, and some other online resources to help locate Naloxone and educate yourself are:
Other overdose prevention resources
The best way to prevent an overdose is to seek help for any substance abuse immediately. Not only can treatment centres help walk you through the detox and withdrawal process in a safe and comfortable setting, but they can also provide long-term resources for recovery. One of the main reasons people begin using drugs in the first place is underlying conditions that also need to be treated.
Finding a dual diagnosis treatment facility is often the best way to recover and prevent an overdose.
There are many different online resources available for public use. Knowing where to go for information and what to do once you have that information is important. Some of the best resources for overdose prevention include:
- Prevent+Ed: This is an organization that provides education, interventions and advocacy in order to minimize possible harm caused by drugs or alcohol.
- National Harm Reduction Coalition: Works to reduce harm and prevent overdoses through a variety of community resources and education. They also provide Naloxone locators and other tools for reducing harm and negative health consequences due to drug use.
- Prevent and Protect: A good tool for individuals struggling with substance abuse and community organizations that are looking to help others.
- National Institute of Drug Abuse: Run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it offers a wealth of information on Naloxone and its administration, as well as resources specifically created for clinicians.
Healing as a whole
Though resources and prevention techniques are an extremely critical piece of this process, it’s important to remember that addiction is a disease that affects the entire person. It may show physical signs, but the psychological toll it takes on a person also needs to be treated.
Seeking help from a treatment facility and participating in wholistic treatments is another piece of the puzzle. Therapies such as Yoga, meditation, adventure therapy and massage therapy can play a vital role in the overall treatment of a person struggling with addiction.
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image 1 RenoBeranger from Pixabay 2 image by Donald Clark from Pixabay 3 “Naloxone (1)” by intropin is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0