The seconds can determine life over death. Knowing what to do when someone has overdosed on opioids is essential.
Opioids, sometimes called narcotics, are a type of drug. They include strong prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and tramadol. Heroin, an illegal drug, is also an opioid.
Taking large doses of opioids can cause an overdose. Opioids affect the part of the brain that regulates breathing. Because the medicine slows down or stops breathing, an overdose can lead to death.
If you are taking an opioid, your family and friends need to know how to respond to an overdose. An accidental overdose can happen to a person who takes prescription or over-the-counter opioids.
What does an overdose look like?
Here are some signs that someone is overdosed.
Unconscious, unresponsive, difficult to wake up
Slow, shallow breathing, difficulty in breathing
Choking, gurgling or snoring
Blue / purple nails or lips
If you notice the above signs, check their breathing and try to wake them up.
· Look for the chest that goes up and down.
· Place your ear near their mouth to listen and feel the breaths.
· Pat them firmly on their chest.
What if I find someone overdosing?
If you think someone is overdosing on opioids, follow these steps.
1. Immediately call 9-1-1. Administer naloxone if available. Naloxone is a safe drug that can quickly stop an opioid overdose. Note: It is safe to use naloxone even if you are not sure whether the unconscious person is having an opioid overdose.
2. Try to keep the person awake and breathing.
3. Lay the person on their side to prevent choking.
4. Stay with the person until the first responders arrive.
If you are currently taking opioids, ask your healthcare professional if you need a prescription for naloxone. Naloxone is readily available at most pharmacies. Free nasal naloxone is also available to anyone in Tillamook County by calling 503-815-2401 or by sending an email through OURTillamook.org. Nasal naloxone is called Narcan®. It is easy to use because it is distributed as a spray in the nose.
How can I avoid an overdose?
• Take your medicine exactly as prescribed by your healthcare professional. Do not take more drugs at a time, or take drugs more often than you are supposed to.
• Never mix pain relievers with alcohol, sleeping pills or illegal substances.
• Keep medicines in a safe place where children and pets cannot reach them. Consider using a medicine chest to prevent people who don’t need to access it.
• Dispose of unused medicines properly.
For more information on naloxone, Narcan®, drug elimination or opioid use disorders, please visit OURTillamook.org.
This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in financial assistance totaling $ 1 million, funded at $ 100 percent by HRSA / HHS. The content is that of the author (s). They do not necessarily represent the official views of, or an endorsement by, HRSA / HHS or the United States government.
For more local health and wellness information, visit www.tillamookcountywellness.org or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.