How Long Does it Take to Recover from an Overdose?

Drug addict man lying on the floor, overdose

Misusing and abusing drugs can have deadly consequences. An overdose occurs when someone consumes more of a substance than is safe, or by mixing different substances. Overdoses can be both accidental or intentional and can cause comas, breathing problems, seizures, and death. In 2019, more than 70,000 Americans died as a result of a drug overdose. The overall rate of drug overdose rose from 2018 to 2019, with synthetic opioids being the main culprit. Non-fatal drug overdoses are even more prevalent. In the case of a non-fatal overdose, how long does it take to recover? This blog will discuss this question as well as what to do after an overdose.

What is an Overdose?

An overdose occurs when someone takes too much of a drug, such as prescription or illicit drugs. The toxins in the body can cause various symptoms that vary in severity. Due to this, it can sometimes be difficult to discern overdose symptoms from just being high. Some people may not even realize they are overdosing. Some general symptoms associated with a drug overdose are:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Severe headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Delirium
  • Extreme agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Change in body temperature (hyperthermia/hypothermia)
  • Going unconscious
  • Change in skin color
  • Fast, slow, or irregular pulse

The effects and risks of an overdose are plenty. The body can respond to an overdose in a variety of ways and ultimately can cause death. Some other severe consequences of an overdose are:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stopping of the heart
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Choking and vomiting
  • Severe dehydration
  • Hypothermia

Moreover, overdoses can cause long-term damage. Potential long-term complications caused by a drug overdose are:

  • Brain damage from lack of oxygen
  • Liver damage
  • Compromised cardiovascular health
  • Neurologic consequences
  • Increased risk of further overdose or suicide attempts
  • Many emotional consequences

Overdoses can happen both accidentally or intentionally. Accidental overdoses can happen for many reasons, such as taking a normal dose with a low tolerance, taking a stronger dose than normal, or combining substances. Most overdoses are unintentional. Common overdose drugs are:

  • Adderall
  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Crack cocaine
  • Crystal meth
  • Ecstasy
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Ketamine
  • Methadone
  • Opiates
  • Prescription opioids

If you are concerned that you or someone you know is overdosing you should call 911 immediately, check the individual’s vital signs, provide CPR if needed, and carefully move the person into the recovery position.

Overdose Recovery

Treating an overdose almost always requires medical attention. There are Good Samaritan Laws in place in many states that legally protect both the person overdosing and the individual. If you find yourself or someone in this situation, it is essential you lay the person overdosing on their side and reach out for medical support. 

When at medical and rehabilitation centers, there are sets of treatments followed to help the individual stabilize. Many medications are designed to alleviate the symptoms of an overdose. There is no set timeframe in which an individual will stabilize after an overdose. The time it takes to begin to recover depends on the substances taken and the amount.

Once the individual who has overdosed is deemed stable, it is important to undergo treatment. Inpatient treatment is likely the best option to fully recover and deal with a drug problem after an overdose. Attending treatment will help you to recover from your overdose and mitigate the risk of future overdoses. Some of the treatment approaches to consider after an overdose are:

  • Dual diagnosis: Those who suffer from co-occurring addiction and mental illness have a dual diagnosis. Individuals with dual diagnoses may benefit from a treatment approach that specializes in concurrent disorders.
  • Inpatient treatment: This form of treatment requires you to live at the facility for the duration of treatment, which usually ranges from 30 to 90 days (longer if necessary). This is a good option for the beginning of your recovery journey to escape the triggers of your daily life and focus on your sobriety.
  • Outpatient treatment: If it is not possible for you to leave work, school, or home, outpatient treatment still allows you to attend treatment while living at home.
  • Sober living: Sober living usually requires individuals to have attended some form of treatment prior to moving in. These houses are a good option if you still don’t feel secure enough to live at home after treatment and require a safe environment to become more comfortable in your sobriety.
  • 12-step programs: Programs like AA and NA are free to join and provide you with a supportive community to help you stay sober and feel less isolated by your addiction.
  • Individual therapy: This type of therapy involves working one-on-one with a therapist to recognize the underlying issues that are motivating your addiction and how to deal with them.

Regardless if an overdose is intentional or not, treatment can be very helpful in both recovering from your overdose and seeing the benefits sober life has to offer. Treatment can be the difference between healing and overdosing again.

Join the Recovery Community at Design for Recovery

With the help of Design for Recovery and its residents, you can continue to learn from your overdose and become comfortable in your sobriety. Design for Recovery helps their residents stay sober through one-on-one mentoring, weekly house gatherings, employment support, money management, family outreach, and a foundation based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Design For Recovery can help you develop skills and tools to thrive in society while also providing you opportunities to build a support system and learn how to function amongst triggers. Take advantage of Design for Recovery’s safe space and lower your risk of future overdoses.

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