Drug & alcohol abuse & overdose: the risks
Addiction poses myriad threats to an individual’s continued physical health, psychological stability, and overall wellbeing. While the threats of addiction and substance abuse are well known, millions of people in Virginia and throughout the United States continue to slip into the vicious addiction cycle. Addiction can cause a person to experience a variety of both temporary and long-term physical harm, several forms of mental or psychological problems, family discord, legal problems, financial distress, and several additional negative outcomes.
It also exposes individuals to continuous risk of sudden death or permanent disability due to overdose.
Every time a person abuses a dangerous addictive substance, he or she puts him or herself at risk for overdose. The risk of overdose can vary depending upon the type of substance being abused, and can be elevated if the individual abuses multiple substances, but it can never be eliminated. When a person develops an addiction, which is also referred to as chemical dependency and a substance use disorder, he or she will begin to lose control over the amount and frequency of his or her substance abuse, which increases the risk that he or she will consume more of the drug than his or her body can safely process. Once control over the amount and frequency is lost recovering from substance abuse will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, without assistance from a reputable addiction treatment center.
Addiction is also characterized by the development of tolerance, which means that a person will need to ingest larger or more potent doses of a drug in order to achieve the desired effect. Tolerance can also increase the risk of overdose, as the individual’s cravings may prompt him or her to take a more powerful dose than his or her body can handle. Also, depending upon the drug or drugs upon which a person has become addicted, he or she may be incapable of verifying the quality and purity of what he or she is putting into his or her body. Of course, the impaired cognition that typically results from substance abuse can also cause a person to accidentally take more of a drug than his or her body can safely process.
Tolerance, powerful cravings, polysubstance abuse, and cognition impairments are among the many addiction-related factors that can cause a person to overdose. The short- and long-term effects of an overdose, including whether the overdose is lethal or survivable, depends on factors that include the type of substance or substances that a person has abused and the rapidity with which the individual is brought to the attention of a qualified emergency healthcare provider.
Signs of drug & alcohol overdose
As noted above, overdose can lead to irreversible damage, including death. If someone exhibits the signs that are listed in this section after abusing alcohol or another drug, he or she may have overdosed and should be brought to the immediate attention of a qualified healthcare provider or addiction rehab center.
The indication that a person has overdosed can vary depending upon the type of substance the individual has ingested, but the following are among the more common signs of overdose:
- Shallow or labored respiration
- Rapid or diminished heart rate
- Pain in chest
- Bluish tint near lips or fingertips
- Discoloration of the tongue
- Nausea, diarrhea, and/or vomiting
- Pupillary constriction or dilation
- Rapid uncontrolled movement of eyes
- Dramatic increase or decrease in body temperature
- Slurring speech
- Delayed or lack of response to stimuli
- Loss of muscle control
- Severe cramps and spasms
- Organ failure
- Extreme confusion
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
What to do if a person is showing signs of drug or alcohol overdose
As noted at the beginning of the previous section, anyone who has overdosed should be brought to the immediate attention of a qualified healthcare provider. Often, this is best accomplished by calling 911 or a local emergency response number.
The doctors, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or other professionals who are treating the individual who has overdosed will be in a better position to provide meaningful help if they can be provided with the following information:
- The name of the substance or substances that the individual ingested
- The amount of the substance or substances that the individual ingested
Depending upon several factors, even with the right information and a rapid medical response, an individual who has overdosed may not be able to escape lasting damage, or even death. However, summoning qualified medical providers as soon as possible, and providing them with the necessary information, can significantly improve the individual’s chances of survival.
At Life Center of Galax, we are extremely familiar with the many ways that addiction can consume and threaten an individual’s life, and we have developed specialized rehab programming that has proven to be effective in the effort to help the men and women of Virginia overcome addictions to alcohol and other drugs and achieve long-term recovery.
To learn more about the many benefits of completing addiction rehab at Life Center of Galax, please feel free to contact us at your convenience. We look forward to providing you with the information you need to make the most informed decision for yourself or for a loved one.