Drug emergencies are not always easy to identify. If you suspect someone has overdosed, or if you suspect someone is experiencing withdrawal, give first aid and seek medical assistance.
Try to find out what drug the person has taken. If possible, collect all drug containers and any remaining drug samples or the person's vomit and take them to the hospital.
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
The health care provider will perform a history and physical examination. Tests and procedures will be done as necessary.
These may include:
- Activated charcoal and laxatives to help remove swallowed drugs from the body (sometimes given through a tube placed through the nose into the stomach)
- Airway and breathing support, including a face mask, tube through the mouth into the trachea, and breathing machine (ventilator)
- Blood and urine tests
- CT scan of the head, neck, and other areas
- Chest x-ray
- EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
- Intravenous fluids (fluids through a vein)
- Medications to reverse the effects of the drugs
- Psychiatric and social work evaluation and assistance
In serious cases, the person may need to be admitted to the hospital for further observation and treatment.
The outcome will depend on the type and amount of drugs used, the route of entry into the body, and any medical conditions that may be present. Both long- and short-term use of opioids may result in acute or permanent disability, including heart, lung, liver, kidney, and brain damage. Repeated infections may overwhelm the immune system. Death may result from these, as well as other organ system complications.