Drug overdoses are always scary and tragic events, and many of them lead to fatalities. In fact, since 2000, more than half a million Americans have died of an overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Activists, families, medical professionals, and members of the recovery community have attempted to put a stop to rising rates of overdose by making naloxone more accessible. Naloxone is an opiate overdose reversal drug that can save lives. Obviously, surviving an overdose is a good thing, and when people do, they are lucky. But because overdose fatalities are so awful, it’s easy to forget that even if you survive, the effects of overdose can still be very serious.
Focusing On All of the Potential Effects of Overdose
Much of the focus with regard to preventing overdoses and educating people about them is geared toward saving lives, as it should be. However, besides fatality, there are other extreme consequences of overdosing that can impact victims’ lives permanently and drastically.
Opiates like prescription painkillers and heroin cause the greatest number of overdoses in the United States. In fact, out of the more than 500,000 deadly overdoses since 2000, opiates were involved in over sixty percent of them. Having supplies of naloxone (also called Narcan) can help lower this number. Harm reduction methods like supervised injection sites have also been proposed to counter the problem, although none yet exist in the United States.
Progress being made toward saving people’s lives and reducing the number of overdoses is cause for hope. But it’s important to remember that even when they aren’t fatal, the effects of overdose can be grave. That’s why it’s important to focus not just on harm reduction to save lives, but on treatment and prevention so that people don’t risk serious injury as the result of an overdose. Effects of overdose, when they are not fatal, can include organ damage, nerve damage, loss of mobility, and a host of other problems.
Permanent Effects of Overdose
In addition to potential fatality, the effects of overdose can include serious injury. For example, sometimes overdose can cause nerve damage, permanent injury, or even paralysis of limbs. This can occur when someone overdoses and remains in the same spot or position for a long time before they are found. Certain positions, such as a bent leg or arm, can cause blood circulation to be cut off from limbs. This can lead to nerve damage, long-term pain, a limp or decreased mobility, or can even cause someone to require an amputation of a dead limb or paralysis.
When blood circulation is cut off and a muscle dies, it is known as “compartment syndrome”, and treating it can lead to a loss of parts of the body or disfigurement (NPR.) If someone slips and falls during an overdose, they can break bones or even experience paralysis due to a spinal injury.
When someone overdoses, sometimes their brain is deprived of oxygen for long periods of time. This can cause permanent brain damage, loss of vision or hearing, and even a vegetative state, in which a patient is only kept alive by machines.
The effects of overdose can also include organ damage. The cut-off of blood flow that is caused by being stuck in one position for a long period of time (as is common when people overdose and are unable to move) can also prevent the body from filtering toxins out of the blood. As the muscles and tissues begin to break down, the chemicals they produce can also build up (Narconon.) This can cause the kidneys to shut down, and the damage can be permanent, resulting in diminished kidney function or the need for long-term dialysis.
Comprehensive Care and Prevention
Ultimately, even if someone survives an overdose, they can still suffer permanent and even catastrophic injury. That’s why it’s essential to not only distribute overdose reversal drugs, but to help people get treatment for addiction so that they can avoid the potentially devastating effects of overdose that can happen even when someone survives.
Wellness Retreat Recovery provides addiction treatment for people who suffer from dependence on opiates (including heroin), alcohol, prescription pills, stimulants, and a variety of other substances. If you suffer from any form of chemical dependence, you can get help before you have to suffer the tragic effects of overdose. Call Wellness today at 888-821-0238 for information on admissions and the programs offered.