Health Risks of Drugs Overdose

picking up a tablet

Why You Should Not Overuse Drugs

It is no longer news that drug over usage can put you in so much danger that you could even die from its effect. Drugs come with dosages, and those dosage instructions are expected to be followed to ensure the proper treatment of the ailment.

Drug overdose means ingesting too many drug substances through the mouth into the bloodstream. These drugs could either be ones prescribed by a Doctor in the hospital, over-the-counter medications, legal or even illegal ones. Whichever group they fall under, overusing them can be fatal. Though drug overdose could either be intentional or accidental.  Some people overuse drugs out of carelessness, while others do not know how strong the drugs are and have no clue about the amount that is safe enough for them.

Overdose can also come as a result of a person trying to lose weight. They think overusing the drugs would help them get extra results. Other cases could be women trying to prevent pregnancy and so on.

Using drugs enough to cause a harmful effect on your general body system and function means you have taken an overdose of that drug.

Drug overuse, whether prescribed or not, can lead to severe medical complications and sometimes death. The degree of severity of the effects of overdose depends on the drug itself, the amount you consumed, and the medical history of the drug user. When the body loses control over the number of drugs that have been taken, the condition of such a person is said to be caused by the overuse of drugs.


Overdose is not only when drugs are taken in larger amounts than prescribed. It is also using drugs or doses earlier than directed by the Doctor. Because the body has not finished working on the one you took previously, using another one before the appropriate time suggested by the Doctor can also lead to an overdose.

People respond to drug overdose; differently, this can be as a result of many factors like the age, body composition, and medical history of the drug user. This is why treatment is fashioned towards individuals’ peculiarities.

Drug overdose can happen to anybody of any age grade. It is most common in crawling children and children between ages 2 and 5 who tend to eat everything they see because they can now move around the house. This is why all drugs label read “keep out of reach of children.”

Over the years, over half of the overdose drugs death have been associated with prescribed drugs. The other half is shared between non-prescribed drugs and illicit drugs.

Sources of Overdose

Causes and Risk Factors

Some factors have been discovered to be the culprit behind drug overuse.

These factors are;

Lack of Proper Storage of Drugs

This is the major cause of overdose in children. When drugs are stored improperly, they become accessible enough for children who are curious and want to put everything in their mouths, as well as those ones who just learned to crawl or walk. This factor gives them broad opportunities to ingest as many as they can while you are not looking. In addition, drugs that are not properly sealed are also easy to access by these children.

Not Following or Reading Dosage Instruction

This factor can affect anybody, adults inclusive. Not following dosage instruction means two things. It is either you underuse the drug, or you overuse it, but there is more chance that you will overuse it. Also, using drugs earlier than prescribed by the Doctor could cause an overdose.

Addiction or Intentional Misuse

Using illicit drugs and taking an overdose intentionally can expose you to the effects of an overdose. When you intentionally overuse drugs, you tend to become addicted to them, and this can be fatal. There is a higher risk when you begin to mix and combine different drugs together.

Mental and Psychological Imbalance

feeling faintMental illness can also be a risk factor for drug overuse. Depression and anxiety can be great triggers of overdose.

Other risk factors include;

  • Low income
  • Doctor shopping
  • Self-injection of drugs
  • The mixture of alcohol and drugs
  • Use of street drugs


The symptoms of drug usage include;

  • Issues with vital signs such as pulse rate, temperature, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. These vital signs could either increase rapidly, decrease drastically or be totally absent.
  • Loss of consciousness, sleepiness, confusion, and frequent slips into a coma. This could also lead to a person breathing vomit into the lungs, which can be a medical emergency.
  • Damp and cold skin or extremely dry and hot skin could also be symptoms of drug overuse.
  • Chest pain emanating from heart or lung damage.
  • Difficulty in breathing. Breathing could be low, rapid, or shallow.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur. Sometimes blood stains in vomit and excreta can be dangerous and would require medical attention.
  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Vital organ damage
Other symptoms include;
  • Agitation
  • Drowsiness
  • Violence and aggression
  • Trouble walking
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Tremors
  • Convulsion
  • Hallucinations
Organ damage symptoms are
  • For liver failure;
  • Jaundice
  • Darker urine
  • Pale stools
  • Lower right abdominal cramp
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
For kidney failure;
  • Swollen feet
  • Lower legs swelling
  • Reduced urination
For heart failure
  • Reduced breathing rate can lead to death due to excess opioids like morphine and heroin.
  • Increased pulse rate and blood pressure due to excess stimulants
  • Heart attack
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Weak pulse
  • Dilated pupils due to depressants
  • Hallucination, fatigue, and psychosis due to excess hallucinogens and sedatives
  • Irregular breathing and heartbeats due to excessive consumption of alcohol

Treatment and Management

The treatment of overdose depends on the condition of the victim. Another factor to be considered is knowing the number of drugs that have been ingested. Knowing these can help in the administration of appropriate treatment measures. The following are a few chosen things you can do to save a drug overdose victim before rushing from person to person.

  • Give the person activated charcoal. Activated charcoal, when ingested, goes into the body system and absorbs the overused drug.
  • Clear the airway of the victim and give breathing tubes to aid breathing in cases where breathing is low.
  • Induce vomiting by dipping a finger into the esophagus of the victim to remove the overused substance
  • Lie the victim down on his back and pump the stomach to induce vomit
  • If available, give intravenous fluids to help the body get rid of the substance quickly.
  • Although some drug overuse antidotes exist. These antidotes help reverse the effects of the drugs. Getting to these antidotes on time can help save the victim and buy some time pending the time medical attention reaches the victim, after which the substance would be professionally and medically flushed out of the victim’s system.


For Children;

  • Ensure that all drugs are properly sealed and stored away from the reach of children. This is not only important for your children, but it is also important for other people’s children who may come visiting, as you may not be sure what they are capable of.
  • Ask the pharmacist to package the drugs in childproof containers.
  • Keep drugs far from the reach of children. Make sure they are either in high places or locked places.
  • If drugs have to be refrigerated, they should be kept at the back of the fridge, not on the door of the fridge. They should also be sealed properly, just in case older children are able to reach the back of the fridge.
  • Tell your visitors to put their drugs in their bags and not scatter them around in your house. This would help prevent your children from seeing them or having access to them.
  • After usage, return all drugs to safe, high, or locked places.
  • Get child-resistant containers or a box that is lockable to store your drugs.
  • Don’t tell your children medicines are sweet like lollypops because you want them to use them without you having to force them when they are ill. Telling them this could make them go back to it after they get better to have a taste of it again.

For Adults;

  • Read and follow prescription and dosage instructions.
  • Keep drugs away from mental patients’ reach.
  • Avoid excess herbal medicines; though natural, they can also cause an overdose.
  • Totally avoid illicit and illegal drugs.

unhealthy looking manIn conclusion, drug overuse can be fatal, and it is caused by various factors ranging from intentional use, improper storage, and lack of heeding to prescription and dosage instructions. First aid remedies have been suggested by medical practitioners to help buy some time for drug overdose victims, pending the time medical attention reaches them. However, it is important to reach out for urgent medical attention even after first aid to prevent complications like vital organ damage.