IN THIS ARTICLE:
Drug overdoses have been on the rise over the last several decades, and while the trend is up overall, opioid overdoses have risen disproportionately to other drugs of abuse. During the current COVID-19 epidemic, hospitals and emergency rooms are under a heavy burden already, so having some additional resources may provide help to those who would otherwise die of an overdose. This guide is meant to provide information, education, and access to further resources and is not intended as medical advice.
Suspect an Overdose?
In the event of a suspected drug overdose, the best choice is to dial 911 and monitor the person until emergency medical help arrives:
- If they are having a seizure, wait until convulsions have ceased and then attempt to place them in the recovery position until further help can arrive.
- If they have suffered head or neck trauma, do not move them and wait for trained medical professionals.
- While opioids have a widely available and fairly safe treatment for overdoses in the form of naloxone, most other drugs do not.
- Located outside the US? Click here for additional emergency phone numbers by country.
The approach taken by medical professionals in most cases is to reduce the risks by treating the symptoms of the overdose, and this often requires strong medications that may be potentially dangerous unless administered by a trained medical professional. Once stabilized, admission to a professional drug rehab center is strongly recommended.
Which Drugs Present Overdose Risks?
Different drug overdoses will manifest different symptoms. While there may be variability between individual drugs, the main categories of drug overdoses often fit into two distinct categories: depressant and stimulant drug overdoses. While the specifics may vary, in general, depressants will slow vital functions while stimulants will accelerate vital functions, and these are the mechanisms by which overdoses may be fatal.
In the section below you’ll find in-depth drug-specific overdose guides that cover signs and symptoms of overdose and outline prevention strategies and free resources for some of the most dangerous and addictive drugs available today.
With the recent opioid epidemic plaguing the United States there has been an increase in access and availability of the medication Narcan. This medication contains the active ingredient naloxone, an opioid antagonist, that can reverse the effects of opioid drugs. While the exact mechanism is not fully understood, it appears to act as a competitive antagonist, forcing the opioid drugs out of brain receptors and replacing them. This reverses the effects of the drugs including the dangerous depressive effects on breathing, the leading cause of death in opioid overdoses.
Additional Reading: Opioid Overdose Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment Guide
Alcohol (aka ethanol) can cause dangerous and potentially fatal problems in the event of an overdose. Heart issues, breathing troubles, and metabolic disturbances are common during an overdose, and treatment of these symptoms is usually supportive in nature. There are no known medications that can treat an alcohol overdose, so medical support and monitoring is really the only tactic to use. The body is kept as safe as possible while it metabolizes the alcohol and thereby reduces the depression and risks.
Additional Reading: Alcohol Overdose Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment Guide
Prescription benzodiazepine (benzo) medications such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium are common drugs of abuse and, subsequently, overdoses occur. This is especially the case when combined with other drugs like alcohol or opioids as the depressant effects of these drugs may amplify the effect of benzos, or vice-versa. If someone is using benzos, it is crucial to warn them not to use other depressants, as this greatly increases the chance of overdose, and complicates the treatment process.
Additional Reading: Benzo Overdose Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment Guide
Crystal Meth Overdoses
Crystal meth is one of the most potent stimulant drugs known today. A person who overdoses on meth can exhibit hyperactive physical and psychological symptoms. If someone has suffered an overdose on crystal meth, medical help should be summoned immediately.
Additional Reading: Meth Overdose Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment Guide
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug and overdoses are, unfortunately, fairly common. While cocaine overdoses can range from simply uncomfortable to potentially life-threatening, even the relatively minor overdoses should be treated medically. Even though the symptoms may not seem severe, there is an increased risk of dangerous complications in any cocaine overdose.
Additional Reading: Cocaine Overdose Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment Guide
Kratom is still fairly new to America, only becoming popular in the last decade or two. Even so, it is rapidly proving to be a dangerous and potentially deadly drug of abuse. The variety or overdose symptoms and the amount of drug-drug interactions it is capable of producing are major causes for concern.
Additional Reading: Kratom Overdose Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment Guide
Commonly known as a “date rape” drug, GHB is also used for recreation. In recent years it has made a comeback in the club-drug scene and, unfortunately, there has been an increase in fatal GHB overdoses.
Additional Reading: GHB Overdose Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment Guide
Where Can I Get Naloxone?
Recent laws passed in many states have increased the access and availability of naloxone. Here are some resources to obtain naloxone or information on how to obtain naloxone.
Next Distro: An online overdose education and prevention program designed to inform and provide naloxone resources for the prevention of opioid overdose deaths.
Naloxone Exchange: A delivery naloxone service that will mail naloxone to your address for use in reversing opioid overdoses, and hopefully saving lives.
CVS: Information about what is needed to get naloxone from a CVS pharmacy and includes a step-by-step guide as far as what to do in the event of an overdose.
Walgreens: A guide on where to get naloxone at the nearest Walgreens, information on how to use naloxone, and general educational resources for finding out more about naloxone.
Prevent & Protect: A resource guide that provides a search tool to find naloxone near you, information about using naloxone to prevent an overdose death, and tools for finding treatment if you or a loved one is using opioid drugs.
GoodRx: A prescription medication discount service, GoodRx provides a resource to find naloxone near you and provides discount coupons to fill the prescription. Their site also features a blog including information on where to get naloxone without a prescription.
National Overdose Resources
Even though overdoses and overdose deaths have been increasing in recent years, there is still a lack of awareness among the general population regarding drug overdoses. These resources aim to increase awareness and provide educational and informative materials so that more people can understand the threat posed by overdoses today.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: This government site provides a wealth of information about naloxone and how it works and resources for finding naloxone in your state.
SAMHSA: This site provides an opioid overdose prevention toolkit for medical professionals, communities, and local governments that provides strategies to reduce opioid overdoses.
International Overdose Awareness Day: An educational and community-focused organization that provides resources and materials to promote overdose awareness as well as overdose fact sheets for information about drug-specific overdoses.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation: General information on overdoses from alcohol and various drugs.
Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs: An overdose overview guide on what steps to take if someone is overdosing, the signs and symptoms of an overdose, and how to avoid overdoses in the first place.
Faces & Voices of Recovery: A resource hub that provides information and toolkits for education about opioids and opioid overdoses. Includes toolkits for creating community organizations and interacting with state governments regarding opioid overdoses and prevention activism.
Georgia Overdose Resources
The state of Georgia has been hit quite hard by the opioid epidemic and is at the center of the Atlanta-Carolinas “high-intensity drug trafficking area” as designated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the DEA. This area has been expanding in recent years, with counties being regularly added in the North Georgia and more recently Coastal Georgia regions. This actually comes with some benefits for people in Georgia, as there is additional federal funding diverted to the region to provide support for community services such as overdose prevention.
Some Georgia-specific overdose prevention organizations and resources include:
Georgia Overdose Prevention: An organization that provides naloxone kits to “high-risk” individuals and their families. They also advocate harm-reduction strategies to help prevent secondary health issues from certain methods of drug use.
Georgia Prevention Project: An awareness and prevention organization that is aimed specifically at teens and young adults. They work to raise awareness and provide resources to educate and inform young people about the dangers of drug use.
Stop RX Abuse in Georgia: This initiative is aimed at reducing prescription opioid overdoses by providing guidance to safe disposal boxes for old or unwanted prescription opioids.
Dose of Reality: A prevention organization that provides support resources and information about how you can help prevent opioid overdoses in Georgia.
Voices for Prevention – Georgia: An overdose and suicide prevention organization that performs advocacy work and connects individuals and organizations throughout the state to help promote awareness and best practices for the prevention of these and related issues.
Good Samaritan Laws In Georgia
Similar to several other states, Georgia also has a comprehensive “911 Medical Amnesty Law” in place that provides legal protections for people who call emergency services if they witness an overdose; even if they have drugs on them when help arrives. This bill was passed on April 24th of 2014 in response to several high-profile overdoses that resulted in fatalities simply because the people at the scene were too afraid to call an ambulance for fear of being arrested themselves.
NOTE: The following paragraph is not intended to be legal advice, rather, it is simply a layman’s interpretation of a legal document.
According to the Georgia General Assembly, someone who summons medical assistance for an overdose victim will be exempt from prosecution for a “drug violation” if drug possession was discovered as a direct result of them seeking medical help (H.B. 965, Page 3, Lines 79-86). The definition of the term drug violation used in the bill is described as “less than 4 grams of a solid substance or less than 1 milliliter of a liquid substance” (H.B. 965, Page 3, Lines 62-66). There are additional protections in this bill for those who summon medical help for an overdose victim while they themselves are on pretrial diversion, probation, parole, or are in violation of a protective or restraining order.