Heroin Overdose Symptoms and Treatment

  1. Article SummaryPrint
  2. What Is an Overdose?
  3. What Are the Symptoms?
  4. What to Do
  5. What Happens Next
  6. After the Hospital

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 50 percent of people who use heroin have an addiction to the drug. Heroin comes in a powder form that ranges from bright white to dark brown that users either mix with water to inject, smoke or snort. Black tar heroin is a type of heroin that resembles tar. Those who use black tar heroin typically inject the substance into their bodies. When a person exhibits heroin overdose symptoms after using the drug, you need to get help for the person immediately.

What Is an Overdose?

heroin-addictionYou might hear people discussing the term "overdose" without understanding what it means. An overdose occurs when someone takes a large amount of a substance. Some people think that this can only happen to new users or those who use the drug frequently, but it can happen to anyone. New users are at risk of suffering an overdose because they might take a higher dose than intended.

Long-term users can also suffer an overdose because of the tolerance the person has to the drug. People who take heroin cannot get the same rush after several uses as they did in the beginning. To get that initial rush, the user must take increasingly larger doses. The body adjusts to each new amount, which makes the person take larger and larger doses. When the body can no longer adjust to the increased levels of heroin in the system, it reacts in the form of heroin overdose symptoms. In addition, a user might encounter an unexpectedly pure batch of heroin, so that user injects more of the active ingredient than anticipated.

What Are the Symptoms?

The signs of an overdose on heroin occur quickly after an individual takes the substance. Some people can have a conversation or do other things before the signs appear. Others find that they begin exhibiting heroin overdose symptoms within minutes after taking a dose of the drug. According to MedlinePlus, these symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased breathing
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dilated pupils
  • White patches on the tongue
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Sleepiness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Dry mouth
  • Bluish tinge to the mouth
  • Bluish tinge on the fingernails
  • Confusion

What to Do

"If an individual suffers an overdose before she gets help for her addiction, you must call 911 immediately for help."When you think that someone you love has a problem with heroin, you need to learn more about the addiction treatment options available. We have trained workers waiting by the phone for your call. You can reach us at 1-800-928-9139 when you notice the signs of addiction, but we can also help if you know someone who recently had a heroin overdose. You need a trusted treatment center that offers the right help for someone with a heroin addiction, and we can ensure that you get the best care possible.

If an individual suffers an overdose before she gets help for her addiction, you must call 911 immediately for help. The person must get to a hospital after he shows the warning signs of an overdose. This gives the doctors enough time to counteract the effects of the drug. You should get medical help as soon as possible after the overdose occurs as death is a serious possibility.

What Happens Next

The first step typically involves monitoring the person for any signs of breathing, blood pressure or other health problems. Heroin overdose treatments usually involve the use of medications that treat the symptoms of the overdose. The doctors want to ensure that the patient is in good health and that his vital signs are within the normal range. This might involve the use of a respirator, or the doctor might recommend an IV that gets fluids back into the body to counteract any dehydration caused by the heroin.

The exact treatment plan depends on the severity of the overdose. For example, the doctor might give the patient a drug that blocks the body from absorbing any additional heroin because the body can continue absorbing the drug after the overdose stops. If the person exhibits only a few problems, the doctor might suggest a laxative, which helps the patient get the heroin out of her body.

After the Hospital

It is important that you get treatment for someone who had a heroin overdose because this can help the person avoid a second overdose in the future. If you feel shaky or nervous after seeing heroin overdose symptoms firsthand, you need to grab your phone and reach us at 1-800-928-9139. We offer encouragement and support for anyone who wants to get clean and sober. If you recently suffered an overdose yourself, call us and let us find the best treatment center to help you get on the straight and narrow.

Did You Know?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, law enforcement arrested more than 500,000 people on charges relating to heroin in 2007.