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How to Save a Life: Recognizing an Overdose


Substance abuse has many serious risks and can impact a person’s health, social and personal life, family, finances and more. Furthermore, it can lead to addiction, the onset of a variety of physical and mental health problems, and even death.

During an overdose, stimulants flood certain receptors in the brain and can affect key functions and parts in the body such as the heart, brain and liver. Substance abuse can cause severe damage to these organs and can also inhibit a person’s ability to stay conscious and breathe.

Being able to recognize the signs of an overdose — and acting when an overdose has happened — can save a life.

Common signs and symptoms of a drug overdose include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Unsteady walking
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing
  • Pale or blue lips and fingers
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Shaking, shivering and seizures
  • Unresponsiveness and unconsciousness

What to do for someone experiencing a drug overdose:

  • It’s important that you don’t leave the person alone.
  • Call 911 or seek immediate medical care for the individual.
  • Check often to make sure they are awake and conscious until medical help has arrived.

Click here to download a tip card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that includes information about opioid overdose, prevention and what to do if you, a loved one or neighbor experiences an overdose.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance abuse problem, or if you have questions or concerns about substance abuse, Willowbrooke at Tanner can help.

For more information or to schedule a confidential mental health or substance abuse screening, please call the 24-hour help line at 770-812-9551.

Learn more at www.WillowbrookeAtTanner.org, where a list of hotlines and resources for support for substance abuse issues and more can also be found.