Emergency Help

If you are experiencing or witnessing an opioid overdose in progress
CALL 911 immediately

Identify an Overdose

How to Identify an Opioid Overdose

An opioid overdose often can be identified by a combination of three signs and symptoms referred to as the “opioid overdose triad”. 
  • THREE Symptoms of the Opioid Overdose Triad are:
  •       1. pinpoint pupils
  •       2. unconsciousness
  •       3. respiratory depression.
More Detailed Symptoms of an Opioid Overdose 
  • Blue skin tinge- usually lips, nail beds and fingertips show first 
  • Very limp body 
  • Very pale face 
  • Pulse (heartbeat) slow, erratic, or not there at all 
  • Throwing up 
  • Passing out 
  • Choking sounds or a gurgling/snoring noise 
  • Breathing is very slow, irregular, shallow or has stopped 
  • Unable to respond 
  • Lack of response to stimulation (e.g., sternal rub or yelling of name)
Combining opioids with alcohol and sedative medication increases the risk of respiratory depression and death, and combinations of opioids, alcohol and sedatives are often present in fatal drug overdoses. WHO
Naloxone – Antidote to Opioid Overdose
Naloxone, which is effectively an antidote to opioid overdose, will completely reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if administered in time. Naloxone is effective when delivered by intravenous, intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intranasal routes of administration. Naloxone has virtually no effect in people who have not taken opioids. Access to naloxone is generally limited to health professionals.

Administer Naloxone

The following are some traditional methods for managing an overdose that are not as effective as Naloxone and rescue breathing: 
  • Do not put the victim in a bath. He/she could drown. 
  • Do not induce vomiting. He/she could choke.
  • Do not give the victim something to drink. He/she could throw up or choke. 
  • Do not put ice down the victim’s pants. Cooling down the core body temperature of someone who is overdosing is dangerous because it will slow down his/her heart rate and can increase the risk of a heart arrhythmia.
  • Do not try to stimulate the victim in a way that could cause harm. Slapping too hard, kicking in the testicles, burning the bottom of the feet, etc. can cause long-term damage. 
  • Do not inject the victim with anything (saltwater, cocaine, milk). It will not work anymore than physical stimulation and can waste time. Also, every injection brings a risk of bacterial and viral infection, abscesses, endocarditis, cellulitis, etc.

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Emergency Help

Poison Control Centers 1-800-222-1222

SAMHSA National HELP LINE 1-800-662-4357

          [SAMHSA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration]

Get The Free SAMHSA Behavioral Health Resource APP
click image to access app

Recovery After Overdoses [article and video]

Heroin Overdose Symptoms and Treatments [Project Know: Understanding Addiction]

What can be done for a Heroin Overdose [National Institute of Drug Abuse]

Opiate Poisoning [Patient]

Reversing Heroin Overdoses At Home - an innovative approach to saving lives 

Naloxone [Wikipedia]

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