Overdose is a dangerous and potentially lethal consequence of heroin use. When a person takes too much heroin, it can slow their heart rate and breathing to the point that they must seek medical intervention to avoid death.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 130,000 people died from a heroin-related overdose between 1999 to 2019.
While heroin overdose death rates have dropped slightly in the past few years, nearly a third of all opioid deaths involve heroin.
Causes Of Heroin Overdose
Opioids such as heroin are some of the easiest substances to overdose on. An overdose occurs when the opioid receptors in the body become overwhelmed, thus slowing a person’s breathing to the point where it may stop.
Heroin overdose is particularly common in people who mix or cut the drug with other substances such as methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, or the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.
What Happens During A Heroin Overdose?
Overdosing on heroin causes a number of physical and mental side effects such as respiratory depression, uncontrolled muscle movement, and in extreme cases coma or even death.
Signs And Symptoms Of A Heroin Overdose
There are several physical and behavioral signs and symptoms that someone may exhibit when they take too much heroin, indicating an overdose.
Physical Symptoms Of Overdose
Physical signs of heroin overdose may include cold and clammy skin, blue lips, nausea and vomiting, seizures, and coma. A person overdosing will have a very slow heart rate and labored breathing as well.
Behavioral Symptoms Of Overdose
A person experiencing overdose withdrawal will exhibit signs such as confusion, anxiety, sleepiness, and more. Oftentimes people won’t be responsive to stimuli or will be drifting in and out of consciousness.
How Many People Overdose On Heroin?
The opioid epidemic has afflicted thousands of people in the United States, including people with family members who use heroin.
According to data tables from the CDC, nearly 130,000 Americans have died from heroin-related overdose between the years 1999 and 2019.
More than 14,000 people died from a heroin drug overdose in 2019 alone, which amounts to approximately four deaths for every 100,000 Americans.
How To Treat A Heroin Overdose
When a person starts to overdose, it’s imperative to seek emergency treatment to avoid severe brain damage or death. Treating an overdose typically includes medications such as naloxone.
Naloxone is available in a nasal spray called Narcan, and an intramuscular injectable form called Evzio. Naloxone will help reverse the effects of heroin overdose by temporarily restoring breathing function until emergency services arrive.
Emergency responders will likely have to pump the person’s stomach if the heroin was taken orally, and other medications will be injected to stabilize the person’s heart rate and breathing.
Once the immediate, life-threatening effects of overdose are avoided, people are typically admitted to a rehab program that offers medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for heroin addiction and counseling services.
How To Prevent Heroin Overdose
If you or a loved one have an addiction to heroin or other opioids, you can be proactive by keeping a dose of injectable or nasal spray naloxone on hand.
Opioid overdose-related deaths can be prevented when naloxone is administered quickly during an overdose. Train yourself or others in how to give naloxone, and have a plan in place for when and if the overdose occurs.
Effective substance abuse treatment at a rehab center may reduce the risk of a heroin overdose, and help people addicted to the drug attain a better life.
Find Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center Today
For more information about addiction to heroin and other opiates, call our hotline at Bedrock Recovery Center. Our evidence-based treatment providers offer inpatient care, detox, and more.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Heroin Overdose
- National Institute of Health (NIH) — Heroin
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — What can be done for a heroin overdose?
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Opioid Overdose Prevention TOOLKIT
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Naloxone and Opioid Overdose
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.