Even When They’re Not Fatal, the Effects of Overdose Can Be Extreme
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. And, these overdose rates have led to the statistical phenomenon that still haunts America and her people today known as the opioid epidemic, our nation’s current crisis. Fortunately, spreading awareness about opioid reversal drugs, like Naloxone, and offering additional support can help individuals struggling with opioid dependence who may be at high risk for overdose. This way, more peoples’ lives can be saved and we can work together to fight the opioid epidemic.
Considering What Naloxone is and how it can Help
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. By spreading awareness of the effects of overdose, we hope more individuals understand the dangers of using opioids. And, to get help before overdose can even happen. Prevention is always better than treatment.
Opioids 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, opioids were involved in over sixty percent of them. Having supplies of naloxone (also called Narcan) can help lower this number. Currently, emergency paramedics do carry doses of Narcan to offer immediate overdose reversal to those they come into contact with, rather than having patients wait until they get to the hospital. Just this alone has already saved thousands of lives. Additional to making naloxone more accessible, harm reduction methods like supervised injection sites have also been proposed to counter the problem. Unfortunately, none yet exist in the United States.
Considering the Dangers of the Effects of Overdose
Progress being made toward saving people’s lives and reducing the number of overdoses is cause for hope. But, unfortunately, even with these prevention methods, people are still overdosing. So, it’s important to remember that even when overdoses aren’t fatal, the effects of experiencing them can be grave. That’s why it’s important to focus not only 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 due to Positioning
In addition to the 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 amputation of a dead limb or paralysis.
Permanent Effects of Overdose due to Cut Off Blood Circulation
Another thing that’s common for people who’ve overdosed and have been in the same position for a while. 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). More often than not, the effects of this disorder are acute, or non-permanent. But, there are cases in which individuals lose function or mobility of limbs due to this syndrome.
Permanent Effects of Overdose to the Brain
When someone overdoses, sometimes their brain is deprived of oxygen for long periods of time. This is due to a cease in breathing. Without oxygen, the brain cannot work as it should. 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. This is called Toxic Brain Injury. Unfortunately, almost 25% of patients who seek treatment for a brain injury have experienced their trauma due to drug use and/or overdose.
Permanent Effects of Overdose to Other Organs
Along with the brain, the effects of overdose can also include damage to other organs of the body. 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), as mentioned previously, 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. This way, people can avoid the potentially devastating effects of overdose that can happen even when someone survives. Finally, it’s important to spread awareness about the dangerous effects of an overdose.
While death is the scariest and obviously most threatening scenario brought on by overdose, the other dangers are still there. And, those who have lived through previous overdoses may start to think they’re invincible. They aren’t – and these effects are coming sooner or later. These permanent effects from overdose will occur eventually. And, no matter how many times overdose has taken place, there is always help and hope for healing.
Getting Treatment Before or After an Opioid Overdose
No matter how long you’ve been using opioids, there is hope through treatment. All too often, people think they can kick their habit alone. And, their friends and family are left grieving their loved one due to accidental overdose. Make the decision today that you won’t experience opioid overdose and that you will get the help you need to live a life of wellbeing.
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 an overdose, whether permanent damage or death. Call Wellness Retreat Recovery Center today at 888-966-9055 for information on admissions and the programs offered.
*Originally posted on April 21, 2017. Updated on March 25, 2019.