Opiate Overdose Facts

Opiates like Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan, Lortab and Lorcet, Fentanyl and other painkillers are highly addictive drugs. Unfortunately, few will escape a physical addiction to an opiate painkiller if they take it regularly for any length of time, even if under the care of a doctor.

Even worse, a number of those who are physically addicted to the drug will develop a psychological dependence upon their prescription opiate as well. However, whether or not an opiate addiction is present, an opiate overdose is always an imminent possibility whenever opiate painkillers are in the picture.

Fact #1: The Symptoms

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 immediately.

When you are overwhelmed by an opiate overdose, you could be unconscious, in the throes of a seizure or convulsions or experience a cardiac arrest and slip into a coma. In other words, you won’t be physically able to call for help for very long so if you begin to feel dizzy or faint, if you are nauseous and vomiting, if you are having a hard time thinking straight or are having difficulty breathing, call 911 or communicate to someone you are with that you are in trouble and need help.

Fact #2: They Can Be Deadly

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

Fact #3: They Are More Likely Under Certain Circumstances

Though they can happen at any time, opiate overdoses commonly occur in some 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 jail or 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 therefore has no tolerance. Taking the amount you took before you quit can mean an instant overdose if your body is used to no opiates at all.
  • When mixing your opiate prescription with other drugs. Some add alcohol to their prescription to enhance the effects of the drugs or other classes of sedatives like benzodiazepines. This almost always leads to an opiate overdose.

Learn More

According to a new study there’s a deadly new drug trend for women, with more females dying after overdosing on prescription painkillers. In fact, the research shows that deaths spiked among women in the decade from 1999 to 2010. The rate of male prescription painkiller overdose in the US is still higher, but women are catching up.

Government health researchers found that opiate pain reliever deaths among women spiked five-fold during that 10-year period, climbing from 1,287 to 6,631, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During that same period, prescription painkiller deaths among men jumped 3.6 times, to 10,020.

That means almost 17,000 people die each year from opiate overdoses, more than quadruple the number of a decade ago.

Nearly 1 million women showed up in emergency rooms in 2010 due to drug misuse or abuse, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). Top causes included heroin and cocaine, benzodiazepine (a psychoactive drug) and opiate pain relievers. Men used to be twice as likely as women to die from drug overdoses, most of which are unintended, research shows. Now, the ratio is about 1.55 times. Overall, drug overdose deaths now claim more than 38,000 people in the US each year.

The rise in women who OD may be due to the feeling that prescription opiates aren’t dangerous like illicit drugs. This may be why painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl are taken by women in dangerous doses. They assume that if the pills can be prescribed by a doctor, they must be safe. There’s also less of a stigma around using “legal” drugs like opiates. Women are more likely than men to be prescribed prescription painkillers, to get higher doses of the drugs and to use them chronically. Women also weigh less than men, so they may be more susceptible to the effects of prescription painkillers. Finally, women are more likely to have multiple prescriptions from different providers, including drugs to combat anxiety and depression. This is important to note because most of the fatalities aren’t from one single medication, but a mix of opiates with alcohol or other drugs.

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.