What is an Opiate Overdose?

Various symptoms occur with combined drug or alcohol use

Any of the following symptoms occur with heroin use (or other opioid) often in combination of other drugs or alcohol:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Turning blue
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unable to be roused

Opioid Overdose Information

  • OD is the major cause of death among drug users – mainly opiates
  • Heroin injectors are 14 X more likely to die than their peers
  • Most heroin users will experience an OD during their life-time
  • Increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years
  • High purity of heroin rarely cause of overdose death
  • Overdose deaths can happen several hours after heroin use
  • Overdose occurs more often in risk groups
  • Most overdoses are witnessed by others

Those Most at Risk of Opiate Overdose

Risk factors for fatal heroin ‘overdose’:

A recent release from prison is considered a risk factor
  • Heroin in isolation the exception
  • Injecting (as opposed to smoking)
  • Additional personal health concerns
  • Epidemiology: Age (older), sex (m), long history of drug use
  • Poly-drug use/ high levels of alcohol use
  • Recent abstinence/low tolerance
  • Not being in treatment
  • Recent history of overdose
  • Recent release from prison
  • Recent detox
  • Mental health problems, inc depression, feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts
  • In recovery
  • Early occasional use
  • Combined crack and heroin injecting