Opiate Overdose Facts

Opiates like Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Lortab, Lorcet, Fentanyl and other painkillers are highly addictive drugs.[i] When taken over a long period of time, few people can escape a physical addiction to opiate painkillers even when under a doctor’s care.

A number of those who are physically addicted to the drug will develop a psychological dependence upon the opiate as well. Whether or not an opiate addiction[ii] is present, an opiate overdose is always possible when opiate painkillers are in the picture.

Fact #1: The Symptoms

When you are overwhelmed by opiate overdose unconsciousness, seizure, cardiac arrest or coma can result. In other words, you won’t be able to call for help. for very long so if you begin to feel dizzy or faint, if you are nauseous and vomiting, are having a hard time thinking straight or are having difficulty breathing, call 911 or tell someone that you are in trouble and need help.

If you suspect that you have taken too much of your opiate prescription, do not wait for any negative physical symptoms to develop further; call 911.

Fact #2: They Can Be Deadly

Though some survive an opiate overdose, many people die. Losing consciousness or experiencing seizures followed by cardiac arrest and coma before death can happen in a very short period of time. This is why it is so important that you call for medical help immediately.

Fact #3: Overdose is More Likely Under Certain Circumstances

Though an overdose can happen at any time, they are more common under the following circumstances:

  • While traveling. People often buy pills off the streets to subsidize their habit when they run out while on the road or away from home. Trading one opiate for another can be a deadly choice when your body expects one amount and gets another.
  • After long periods of abstinence like a prison term or rehab. Relapsing can be deadly because few remember that during their time without the drug, their body has adjusted to being without opiates and no longer has any tolerance. Taking the amount you took before quitting can mean an instant overdose.
  • When mixing your opiate prescription with other drugs. Some add alcohol to their prescription to enhance the effects of the drug or other classes of sedatives like benzodiazepines. This almost always leads to an opiate overdose.

Trends in Opiate Addiction

According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more females died after overdosing on prescription painkillers from 1999 to 2010 than ever before.[iii] The rate of male prescription painkiller overdose in the United States is still higher. Women are more likely to die from opiate overdose than men because their body weight is typically lower. Women are also more likely to have multiple prescriptions interacting with opiates than their male counterpart, which might explain the rise in female overdoses. More than 17,000 people die each year from opiate overdose which is more than quadruple the number of a decade ago.

Finding Help for Opiate Addiction

If you or someone you love needs treatment for an addiction to opiates or other substances, call The Canyon at the toll-free number on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.


[i] WebMD. “Opioid (Narcotic) Pain Medication,” April 23, 2015. Accessed January 25, 2017. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/narcotic-pain-medications#1

[ii] Mayo Clinic. “Drug Addiction,” December 5, 2014. Accessed January 25, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/definition/con-20020970

[iii] The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Prescription Opioid Overdoes Data,” December 16, 2016. Accessed January 25, 2017.  https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/overdose.html

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