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What is prescription drug overdose and drugs you can overdose on?

A prescription drug overdose is serious and can happen to anyone. Read on to learn more about symptoms and causes.

What is a Prescription Drug Overdose?

Prescription drugs may seem relatively harmless. After all, if a doctor prescribes them to you, how bad can they be? The truth is there are plenty of prescription drugs out there that are extremely dangerous. They can even lead to substance abuse disorders and even a prescription drug overdose. This article will discuss prescription drug misuse and what you need to look out for. 

A prescription drug overdose occurs when you take enough of a drug that it causes life threatening symptoms like unconsciousness, shallow breathing, and confusion. It can even result in death.  

Is Prescription Drug Overdose a Public Health Issue?

Overdosing on prescription drugs is a public health issue. Drug poisoning deaths have tripled since 1999 with thousands of deaths annually, causing a major cause for alarm.1

Prescription Drug Overdose Statistics

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription overdose rose from a little over 3,000 in 1999 to over seventeen thousand in 2017. Although there was a small decline between 2017 and 2019, numbers rose again in 2020.2

prescription drug overdose

What Prescription Drugs You Can Overdose On?

You can overdose on just about any prescription drug, but here are the drugs that most commonly lead to prescription overdose.  

  • Opioid Painkillers: Sourced from the poppy plant, opioids block pain signals moving from the body to the brain reducing feelings of pain. They also produce a sense of euphoria that make them addictive.
  • CNS Depressants: CNS depressants calm the nervous systems and are often prescribed for anxiety.
  • Stimulants: Stimulants provide feelings of alertness. They are prescribed to ADHD patients and may also be used to treat general drowsiness and narcolepsy.

Prescription Drug Overdose Causes and Risk Factors

People may misuse prescription drugs for any number of reasons. Here are some common causes that may show people are developing a dependency to a certain drug:

  • They feel they need more of the drug to get the same results.  
  • They enjoy the way the drug works to produce euphoric or calming effects and want these feelings to intensify.
  • They use the drug excessively to treat underlying mental conditions.  

Prescription drug misuse can easily lead to an overdose of medication.

Who is at Risk for Prescription Drug Overdose?

Anyone who is prescribed drugs and misuses them is at risk for a prescription drug overdose, but you are especially likely to fall victim if you have underlying mental issues or if you’ve had a family member develop a substance abuse disorder in the past. If this is the case, you will be using the drug for its intended use as well as for the way it works to produce a calming or euphoric effect. It may seem to address certain emotional disorder symptoms but if it is not prescribed as a mental health treatment, it will end up doing more harm than good. 

Common Signs of a Prescription Drug Overdose

Some common signs of a prescription drug overdose include:

  • Lack of consciousness, shallow breathing, slurred speech, tremors
  • Problems with memory, confusion, inability to focus
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Body temperature tends to drop during a medication overdose
  • Breathing may become shallower when an overdose on prescription drugs occurs

Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention

Prescription drug overdose deaths are not uncommon, but fortunately, there are steps you can take towards prescription drug overdose prevention. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Develop a Pain Management Plan: Your doctor can help you develop a prescription pain management plan. This includes taking prescribed drugs as recommended and gradually weaning yourself off them through physical therapy and other natural strategies.
  • Storing Drugs Securely: Storing prescription drugs securely can keep them out of the hands of anyone in your home that is prone to prescription drug misuse. 
  • Proper Disposal of Medications: You should dispose of medication containers by crossing off your personal information and taking them or mailing them to an authorized destruction facility. This ensures that no one can use them to try and get an illegal prescription for themselves.3
prescription drug overdose

Treatment for Prescription Drug Overdose

There are treatments that can be used to save a person’s life if they are experiencing an overdose. Here are some options:

  • Medications: Naloxone is often used to treat an opioid overdose. It binds to opioid receptors to block opioid effects.4
  • IV Fluids: IV fluids help speed up the body’s removal of toxic substances.
  • CPR or Other Resuscitation Techniques: If the person has stopped breathing or their heart or pulse has stopped or is very faint, you may be able to revive them with CPR or other resuscitation techniques.
  • Chemical or Physical Restraints in Rare Cases: These are used to control a person’s violent behavior that may occur during a prescription drug overdose.

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment Programs

Prescription drug rehab is necessary for prescription overdose prevention and for those who have already experienced a prescription drug overdose. It includes a three-step process which involves the person slowly and safely allowing toxic substances to leave the body. Withdrawal symptoms may be unpleasant during this stage of recovery, but medical staff will keep the patient as comfortable as possible and see to it that relapse doesn’t occur.

After detox is complete, the patient will move on to therapy, which addresses addiction and its underlying causes. They will then be provided with aftercare to ensure they maintain sobriety.

Get Help for Prescription Drug Overdose and Abuse at San Diego Detox

If you or a loved one are looking for help for a prescription drug addiction, San Diego Detox is the ideal solution.

San Diego Detox is in the upscale, relaxing neighborhood of Ocean Hills. We offer a variety of programs including inpatient and outpatient treatments, 12 step programs, detox help, and more. We will give you the tools you need for long lasting recovery. 

Don’t let an addiction to prescription drugs rule your life. Reach out to San Diego Detox today. We will help you achieve a happier, healthier state of living.

Learn More About San Diego Detox

Our team is standing by to discuss your situation and options. Your call is fully confidential, and no obligation is required.