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Opiates/Opioids Overdose

Causes of Opiate Overdose

Most people think that only addicts can overdose on opiates or opioids. It is true that most people who are addicted (they take the drug because of the way it makes them feel) do suffer the most overdoses. But anyone taking them can suffer opiate or opioid overdose, especially when:

  • They take more than was prescribed by the doctor
  • They combine opiates or opioids with other Central Nervous System depressants such as alcohol
  • They have an unknown condition that makes them more sensitive to overdose.

Additional overdose information

  • People who are not addicted but are “dependent” (if they quit taking the opiate or opioid they have very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms) are also suffering these overdoses and sometimes with fatal consequences.
  • This is particularly true of methadone users as explained in Methadone — Addiction and Pain, but it is also true of people taking other opioids.
  • These dependent people were prescribed opioid drugs for pain and are going to emergency rooms in increasing numbers because they have overdosed.
  • They may be experiencing the effects explained in Opioids Increasing Pain.
  • They feel more pain and just keep taking more opioids or they chew the OxyContin pill and release all of the oxycodone, the active ingredient, and this puts them into an overdose.

Respiratory depression

As explained above, opiates and opioids do create a slowing of your respiration, your breathing, and if it slows too much it creates severe respiratory depression.

  • In order to survive, each of us must be able to breathe oxygen. We know that if we are deprived of oxygen, we will first pass out and then we will die.
  • To take in the needed oxygen, each of us will breathe a certain number of times per minute. The breathing rate for most people normally ranges from 12 to 20 breaths per minute, but it varies from person to person.
  • This breathing process is called respiration.
  • Respiratory depression simply means something that has depressed or reduced the number of breaths that we take each minute. Generally, if a person’s respiration rate slows to less than 12 breaths per minute, it is an indicator that something is wrong.

There is hope for a new life. Call to speak to one of our experienced & caring detox advisors today! (855) 464-8550

Signs of opiate/opioid overdose

While there are no certain signs of an opiate/opioid overdose, if a person appears to be in some distress and exhibits one or more of these indicators and you know that this is not typical, then the safest thing to do is to call 911:

  • A respiration rate of less than 12 breaths per minute
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Acting confused
  • Acting drowsy and having trouble staying awake
  • Asking just to be allowed to go to sleep
  • Sudden mood shifts, like from happy to sad
  • Acting as if nothing mattered anymore
  • Moving slowly if at all
  • Experiencing nausea
  • Not knowing where they are
  • Uncontrolled vomiting

In An Overdose Emergency:

One of the things that many people who are suffering from a prescription drug overdose will want to do is go to sleep. If you suspect a drug overdose:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Keep the person walking around and talking.
  • Many medical workers recommend that if you find someone that you believe may be suffering from an opiate/opioid overdose, it is very important that you keep them from going to sleep while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

Find Out How Opiate/Opioid Detox Can Save Your Life:

  • How Long Detox Will Take
  • The Difference Between Detox and Rehab
  • How You Can Get the Most Comfortable Detox Available Even If You Are On High Dosages of Opioids

Common opiates/opioids that cause overdoses

More and more drug overdoses are being caused by opiates and synthetic opioids such as:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin
  • Percodan
  • Percocet
  • Lorcet
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Darvon
  • Dilaudid
  • Demerol
  • Lortab
  • Fentanyl
  • Suboxone
  • Subutex
  • Roxicodone

These opiates and opioids:

  • Act as agonists–drugs that stimulate receptors in the body
  • Primarily stimulate special opiate receptors in the brain
  • Are central nervous system depressants
  • Create many side effects and one of the more serious ones is respiratory depression

There is hope for a new life. Call to speak to one of our experienced & caring detox advisors today! (855) 464-8550

Naloxone for opiate/opioid overdoses

  • For some time, one of the standard treatments for drug overdoses used in emergency rooms at hospitals is the drug naloxone.
  • Naloxone is an opiate/opioid antagonist. It expels the natural opiates and synthetic opioids from the opioid receptors and blocks them from coming back to these receptors.
  • If the natural opiates and synthetic opioids were creating respiratory depression by overstimulating the opiate receptors, then by removing their stimulation, the person’s breathing will not be depressed and they can begin to resume normal breathing.
  • Normally, emergency rooms don’t just use naloxone, but they also administer oxygen and often other types of artificial respiration to ensure that the person with difficulty breathing will have every opportunity to recover.


  • Narcan is a form of naloxone that comes in a nasal spray.
  • Some states are experimenting with training family members of opiate/opioid addicts in the use of Narcan if they find that their loved one is having an overdose.
  • Narcan has been credited with keeping a number of addicts who overdosed alive until emergency medical help arrived.

The downside to Naloxone

  • Naloxone creates a lot of stress on the body. This can be even more of a problem for addicts because:

    • They are normally dehydrated.
    • They are normally deficient in essential vitamins and minerals.
    • They normally have impaired immune systems.
    • They normally are considered to be in poor health overall.
  • Because it is an opioid antagonist, it will put people who have become dependent or addicted to opiates/opioids into painful withdrawal.
  • In some cases, naloxone used in response to an opiate/opioid overdose or suspected opiate/opioid overdose may result in:
    • Vomiting
    • Excessive sweating
    • Tremors
    • Seizures
    • High blood pressure
    • Low blood pressure
    • Tachycardia (too rapid heartbeat)
    • Ventricular tachycardia (a pulse rate of more than 100 beats per minute, with at least three irregular heartbeats in a row)
    • Fibrillation (very rapid irregular contractions of the muscle fibers of the heart result)
    • Pulmonary edema (accumulation of fluid in the lungs)
    • Cardiac arrest


The worst consequence of consuming opiates and opioids is that they can cause overdose, which can lead to:

  • permanent injury such as brain damage
  • or even lead to sudden death

Opiates and opioids are Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. The CNS controls our ability to breathe and keep the heart beating. When depressed too far by CNS depressants, these functions can slow down and eventually stop.

Unless one is treating the pain of severe illness or injury, the best way to avoid overdose is to avoid opiates and opioids altogether.

From a Novus patient: “I was taking 180mg of oxycodone and 6 mg of Xanax per day. I was safely taken off both drugs in 8 days with minimal discomfort.”

The best way to avoid an opiate/opioid overdose is to have people dependent on or addicted to opiates and opioids go to Novus Medical Detox Center for drug treatment and then to a good drug rehab.

Why is Detox Different at Novus?

Novus specializes in making the detox process as pain free as possible. We have experienced medical staff and counselors who know that everyone’s DNA and metabolism is different. At least part of the reason you or your loved one first became dependent on opiates or opioids is due to this fact. Therefore, each person that comes to Novus Medical Detox for help is put on an individual program, designed and administered just for them, based on the amount of drug usage, our knowledge of metabolism and their reactions to each step of the detox. We also combine this personalized detox approach with a vitamin and nutritional regimen that will help rebuild the body as you or your loved one safely withdraws.


We develop an individualized medical detox program specifically for each of our patients, which means no recovery will look the same. Our delicious food, nutritional IVs and supplements, and specialized detox protocols are all designed to quicken the healing process. We understand that various addictions present a number of issues for the human body, so we create our IVs and diets to fit the needs of specific withdrawal symptoms.

Our process is all about you, which is why we have private and shared rooms available for our residents. Each room is outfitted with a TV, telephone, and access to the internet. We also provide educational classes that will show you how the drug or alcohol of your choice affects your body. We believe that to effectively fight off your withdrawal symptoms, it is important to know what you are fighting against and what to be prepared for.

To learn more about how we can help you,
call (855) 464-8550 today!

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