The Many Types of Overdose

Check of the patient's respiration: the helper...

Check of the patient's respiration: the helper listens to the breath, tries to feel the air flowing on her cheek, the chest going up and down, and see the movements of the chest. But if the person has actually stopped breathing completely -you won't have time to make all these checks first. Ring an ambulance and go straight into CPR!

It can happen fast, the person passing out before they even get the works out of their arm, or it can happen slow, 15-20 minutes after they’ve had their hit. It can even happen when they’ve seemingly crashed out on the couch or in bed, sometime during the night. In fact, the usual time for an OD to happen is 3 hours after the drugs have been ingested! It can depend on the amount and types of drugs taken and the way they were taken. Just because you might not inject or take heroin DOES NOT mean you can’t OD on something else. However there are signs to watch out for.

Have they gone blue/grey in the face (look at the lips)? Have they seized up or have they gone totally limp? Both can be signs of unconsciousness. Are they making weird snoring/gurgling noises? Have their eyes rolled back in their head so you can hardly see their iris? Are they unresponsive? All of these are signs of unconsciousness. Put your ear to their mouth and listen or rest your check over their mouth as you feel for breaths, watch for the rise and fall of their chest (see pic) do you hear or feel them breathing? Pinch their earlobe – are they still not responding? They may be having a lot of trouble breathing and they will need your help -but if they have stopped breathing completely your going to have to act extremely fast. Either way, they’re going to need your help. If a person has stopped breathing you have less than 5 minutes to start the breathing again before brain damage or death follows. If they are struggling to breathe on their own, a few minutes breath from you can be just what they need to come round again. Know-how of mouth to mouth is the opiate users best friend!

Variations in Overdosing

Technically, an overdose is ‘higher than the recommended normal or therapeutic dose of a drug that greatly exceeds the individual’s tolerance to that substance’. There are a great deal of variations in what happens from a stimulant or depressant drug OD. (BP will be adding psychosis and other sorts of behaviours associated with drug overloads, shortly)

Stimulant based overdose scenarios:

Fitting (seizures)

Respiratory arrest – A person has stopped breathing

Chest Pain


Continuous vomiting – leading to severe dehydration

Stroke – Sudden weakness/numbness in face legs or arms, Difficulty talking, Blurred or dimmed vision, Unequal pupils, sudden or severe headache, ringing in ears

Psychosis – Uncharacteristic behaviour, Anxiety, Hallucinations, Aggression

Unconsciousness (not responding)

Signs & Symptoms of a Depressant overdose can vary widely but some common scenarios are as follows:

Sheet white, grey or paleness of facewhich then goes blue– Initially you will notice it around lips, fingernails and toenails but you’ll quickly see it on the face

Continuous vomiting  (at least the body is throwing up the toxins but remember some opiate users use anti emetics to stop them vomiting, which is a common side effect of opiates. In any case, continuous vomiting means you’ve had more than you can safely handle!

Gurgling, snoring or choking sounds -very common with OD’s and people OFTEN make the mistake that if the person is gurgling or heavily snoring, then they must be ok and are just really stoned. WRONG! This is often a very serious precursor to a full on overdose -it means they are struggling to breath -they may be on the knifes edge -so tend to them! Give mouth to mouth or put them in the recovery position and see if this helps clear the airways. If they aren’t waking up call the ambulance.

Unconsciousness (not responding)

Respiratory & Cardiac Arrest

Leave a comment


  1. heather

     /  November 13, 2016

    How do you stop a body from thowing pills back up?

    • Hi,
      Its really important to let yourself throw up drugs – as usually it is your bodies way of telling you you have had much to much and it cannot cope with it. It is effectively saying ‘you have poisoned me’. However, sometimes we can be very sensitive to certain drugs and throw them up a little bit unnecessarily – in that case it could mean that you have taken the drugs too quickly, or on an empty stomach, or with the wrong foods, or you have been driving, sitting in a train or on a bus etc, that has made you nauseas. In these cases you need to pay attention to your body and what it is telling you and take everything slowly, easily, gently. Make sure you have had food (the right foods -not fatty stuff, but carbohydrates are usually better, not alcohol but milky drinks). Sit down when you take your tablets and ingest them slowly if you feel sensitive and be very careful not to go over the milit for your body’s tolerance. easy does it! But, for those opiate users who vomit a lot and decide to take anti emetics to stop their nausea – this can be very dangerous. Vomiting is a way to prevent an overdose – so stopping your body from having that function can be incredibly dangerous. Don’t do it! Good luck and Go SLOW!

  2. Erin

     /  November 4, 2016

    I believe I overdosed a few nights ago. I was shooting heroin and sitting on the floor crisscross. I passed out and when I came to I was bent over with my face on the floor like a pretzel. But my nose was stinging terribly. I believe I vomited up my nose. Is that possible? And was it an od?

  3. Erin

     /  November 2, 2016

    I went out when I was doing heroin. I was sitting crisscross on the ground. When I woke up I was bent over with my head in the ground in front of me. The inside of my nose burned so bad. I think I vomited up my nose but I’m not sure. Is that possible?

  4. Kathryne Watson

     /  October 29, 2016

    Hi, a girl I knew smoked something and it stopped her heart. Suspected Thrax. I did not participate nor see it. I was told all this later. She went limp and fell under a picnic table from a sitting position. Unresponsive, no pulse and blue lips. I performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. I was drug tested the next evening and it showed a faint line for opiates which I never consumed. Did this result come from performing CPR on this girl?

  5. anonymous

     /  October 27, 2016

    My husband just overdosed on heroine. I called 911 and did chest compressions until he came back. He didn’t go to the hospital and I was wondering if it was possible to od twice even if you don’t do anymore Drugs?

  6. Kazzy

     /  September 13, 2016

    Hi I overodsed on a mixture of antidepressants/antipsychotics 5 months ago. Since then my brain feels perm congsested and heavy. How long does it take for your brain to return to normal?

  7. Kim

     /  August 19, 2016

    How long after an overdose death does morphine stay in your system? My BF died from an OD but his morphine level was only 16. Unsure how long he was dead before he was found. Could be up to 72hrs

  8. Gen

     /  July 20, 2016

    URGENT! I had a cocaince overdose about 2 days ago and my left side of my body hurts so bad. My left side of my head hurts and the left side of my upper back hurts extremely! My chest is still tight. Haven’t used cocaine ever since.

    • Hi Gen, Im afraid we need more information – like did you overdose as in having a seizure, heart palpitations, going ‘snowblind’ where you couldnt see or hear anything except giant bells ringing in your head?! Iit sounds like you may have had a seizure or other type of overdose and just fallen on your left side – if you do this from standing up you are going to hurt yourself a lot, or you may have fallen of the sofa onto the floor on your left side. More info would help here – but it sounds like your ok if you just have aches and pains, thank god for that then! take care of yourself Gen! BPx

  9. Antoinio

     /  June 9, 2016


    • None

       /  June 14, 2016

      Urgent: one of my friends just seem’d to od like he passed out anywa its been hours now and hes comming too but hes still making noises like hes snoring and his mouth is trembling. I managed to get him to move a little but

    • Hi,

      The blue colour is from lack of oxygen which can happen from almost any type of overdose, because whether the overdose is from a depressant like heroin or other opiates, in which case your breathing gets depressed and your oxygen is depleted (and u turn blue, grey, purple) it can also be from a seizure or heart attack, when again your ability to provide oxygen around your body is diminished, and again, you turn blue from not breathing. So it could be from a variety of drugs but is more likely to be from a depressant like heroin or opiates. Hope that helps? Take care of yourself wontcha?

  10. Will

     /  June 6, 2016

    Unfortunately I’ve had to save 2 people’s lives the last 2 months from heroin overdose. They were not breathing at all and face was completely blue. Everyone brush up on your cpr skills. I saved them just by breathing for them. Never do heroin alone please.

    • Dude! Thats fantastic – well done, and you are right -doing mouth to mouth can be an excellent choice for heroin overdoses – sometimes that is all thats needed to bring someone back from being on the edge. Or to hold onto them while there is no other air going around their system at all – thats scary but so good to see those breaths take away the grey/blueness of a face suffering asphyxiation, and to get the colour come back -at least if only while you are waiting for the ambulance. Will, what I would say is this; in your country -(not sure where you are) -do they give out Naloxone? Naloxone is the drug paramedics have been using for all these years on our overdoses (Naloxone which is like a very very short acting naltrexone, lasting about 40 odd mins) but nowadays – through the work of some really dedicated people / users in the harm reduction world -naloxone kits are making it to the people – the people who inject drugs, their partners / close friends/ and family; all are given the 10minute training needed to learn out to how to use it (just inject it into the muscle when the person ODs) -and watch it instantly (almost) work. There is also naloxone nasal sprays that cops are using on injectors who’ve OD’s in the street etc etc. Everyone should ask at their local needle and syringe programme, their prescriber, clinic etc etc. Loads of places are giving it out now – check it out – it is essential to have it in your bag / cupboard -make sure everyone knows where it is as well. Good on you will – imagine how ecstatic those parents of those people would be if they knew what you did. We salute you, BP x

  11. Andrew

     /  May 31, 2016

    Hello. Two days ago i injected a small amount of meth and as a result a couple seconds after i felt the usual effects of the drug i then felt an unusual feeling passed out and struck my head on asphalt that was wore and jagged. I would like to know something about why i passed out and about the injury i suffored

  12. What’s the longest it normally takes to show serious life threatening symptoms of methamphetamine overdose

  13. What’s the longest it can take to overdose on

  14. What’s the longest it can take to overdose on methamphetamine

  15. Justin

     /  February 14, 2016

    What’s the longest a person can go without showing signs of an overdose to feel safe that he did not overdose on methamphetamine

  16. Sorry, but im wondering a great deal if this specific problem iv had was acquired through my overdose… I overdosed yesterday, and was rushed to hospital. Upon receiving “treatment” I was told I had a heart attack (Which sounds bogus to me, because it was an overdose.. unless there is something in this case with similarities im not currently informed about..) after my “treatment” aka sitting in a bed for 24 hours and arguing with the doctors im well off to go home, they claimed I needed to stay in the hospital so I can I receive an IV Drip of Saline Solution, so I can clean out my blood…. I argued that this can easily be done at home with either a IV Drip provided by the doctors or with drinking a lot of water (Because they claimed from the get-go that I was 75% dehydrated.) So getting to the problem is, I was under watch by security because the doctor put me on a 72 hour “Form One” which I believe is a medical term for suicide watch. Hence the fact that a psychiatrist was needed to sign the “Form One” Document for me to be released into my own care…. I believe the doctor put me on this order because I told him off when I was coming out of my drug induced coma. Anyways, once again im going off topic, My main problem is, that once I signed the release documents, I realized that my left arm was almost completely numb, except for the minor movement I had in it, and the feeling I have in my fingertips I didn’t notice this until I was completely out of bed getting dressed into my street clothes…. Now I know that my left and right arm don’t have any main veins sticking out and noticed that I had a lot of track marks left from the ambulance and nurses from when I was comatose. Could it be nerve damage from the nurses or EMS fishing around in my arm when I was out cold? I Know for a fact I didn’t shoot up in that arm the day of my overdose or “heart attack” I also know for a fact that when I was out cold and found my tourniquet was around my right arm and I was on my right side out cold. So iv only come to the conclusion that this was very much a heart attack and iv had some minor nerve damage done to my left arm because that’s the first thing someone feels pain or goes numb when they have heart attacks… Im hoping to god that my left arm will gain back the feeling it has lost, but I would really hope to hear someone else’s opinion in this and maybe some feedback on similar situation they had with the numbing sensation. The only feedback iv found online was from nerve damage and that was nearly a day after the loss of sensations in their arm, but those cases were only in the forearm. Mine consists of my triceps, some of my bicep, the top of my forearm where there is hair, and the top of my wrists to the back of my hand. All the more sensitive skin in those areas remains still sensitive, the rest is just like a heavy dull numb sensation that makes my arm heavier and a lot weaker then it normally is, I cant even carry a cup of water up the stairs in fear of spilling or dropping it. Please get back to me asap, I will also keep readers posted, but any help would be very encouraging and clear my mind of this would-be disability i could now have! Thank you.

    • HI,
      Thanks for writing in, and I hope we can shed a bit of light on what happened to you. Now, the first thing is, we agree it is a bit weird the Drs were saying you had a heart attack when you are convinced you had an overdose….That is a touch worrying. Who said that to you exactly – a dr or nurse and did you get any drugs to take home or have tere that might allude to what happened to you? It is common in some parts to be put on suicide watch after a serious overdose, especially if you are young. And also your right it could be coz you were annoyed with the staff when you came around. Did you come around quickly? Like straight away, just wake up? If thats the case then it could be from a Naloxone injection from medics, usually tho, that will occur whereever the medics find you – at home, in the ambulance enroute to hospital if its bad or sometimes in the hospital if you have needed multiple injections and other treatments. Thus if you were in actual hospital when you woke up, and werent driven there by a pal, and you woke up in a hospital bed…then it could have been something like a heart attack. You didnt say what drug you took. If it was a stimulant, it is possible you could have had a heart attack; did you take HEAPS that time? Have you a vulnerable heart condition? All of those things might give you some clue as to the difference of an overdose or heart attack. Let us know. Check your discharge papers closely. Re your arm. The first thing i was going to say was bingo! I know what it is! Something that happens at least once in the lifetime of a junkie or a heavy drinker, and its often called Saturday Nite Palsy, or Foot Drop or a few other names depending on how it happened, so it seems. Basically, for drug users, mainly opiate users or those who are likely to pass out (or overdose) and remain that way for hours usually in a scrunched up position eg, lieing on their side and squashing their arm, leaning over the back of a chair and squashing the nerve in the arm, passing out with ones legs bent underneath one, again squashing the big nerve in the leg, causes a kind of paralysis in the end of the arm – or leg. They even call this Honeymooners Palsy for those who makke love all night then fall asleep for hours with an arm underneath their lover only to wake being unable to move their arm, but in particular their hand, at all! In fact, yours truely had it happen to their foot -and sort of leg, in a sort of OD many moons ago, and I flew, well hobbled, to the DRs, almost breaking my toes coz i couldnt lift my damn foot properly to walk! Like your hand maybe? And yes parts of my leg were numb! Scary! The Dr enlightened me, but was a total arsehole about it, and said it will be gone in 3 weeks or so. Three weeks!!!Dr Douchebag was right however and it went away in about 3 weeks. Here is a good link to start with: But what does worry me is that you said you didnt overdose on that side or your body therefore how could you have damaged that side? Very good question if you are sure about that. If you are sure, then you really need to get more info from the hospital or the letters they will probably send to your own Dr….Oops, hope your family Dr is in the know about the drugs…? But do let us know what happens, I really hope it isnt anything heart attack wise because it will be sure that you shhould have some sort of follow up by a good medic. Have a good think again about the details and how you might have overdosed and, importantly what drugs you were taking. Heart attacks are much rarer in an opiate overdose, but could happen in a stimulant one…though still fairly rare. seizures and arrythmias are more common. Good luck Bradley BPX

    • Elizabeth

       /  September 19, 2016

      It’s very likely that your overdose caused a drug induced stroke. My ex overdosed and when he came out of his “coma” the doctors told him he’d probably have limited mobility in one side because he experienced a drug induced stroke. His veins aren’tvery prominent in that side of his body and his range of movement is quite limited. Also your veins won’t stand out very will if your dehydrated which drugs do and you probably know


We try and reply as soon as we can but please understand it might take anywhere from 1 day to 1 month, but we will always try our best. Mark URGENT if you require a fast reply. Thanks for your understanding!

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