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First Aid for Drug and Alcohol Overdose


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Just like anything in life – anything that you use too much can cause harm. Alcohol, medications, illegal prescriptions, and even some herbal remedies can result in an overdose if you take too much. The risk of drug and alcohol overdose increases as you take more than one substance at a time, at a large amount, or if your body has the worst reaction to a substance.


What Is an Overdose?

An overdose occurs when you take more than the normal or recommended amount of something. It represents a pathologic level of toxicity on which it overwhelms the normal function of the body. Depending on what substance you took, the symptoms of overdose can vary. The most common substances that people tend to overdose on are drugs and alcohol.


Drug Overdose

Any drug taken in excess or recommended amount can cause you to suffer from the effect of overdose. In worse cases, drug overdose or the use of recreational drugs without proper medical supervision can prove fatal. Prompt first aid treatment is necessary to save the life of someone who has a drug overdose.

Note: The effect of the drug will vary depending on the nature of the intake substance. The effect may also vary depending on your age, weight, general health, and whether any substance was consumed simultaneously.


Alcohol Overdose

Alcohol overdose occurs when you consume more alcohol than your body can safely process. In general, the body can safely take one unit of pure alcohol per hour. It is an equivalent of a small shot of alcoholic liquor, a half-pint of beer, the third glass of chilled wine.

If you consume an excess amount of alcohol in shorter periods, the alcohol can build up faster. It is because the body is unable to metabolise or ingest the alcohol fast enough. The accumulation of alcohol will then spread throughout the body, leading to an alcohol overdose (alcohol poisoning).

General symptoms of a Drug and Alcohol Overdose include:

  • Shallow, irregular breathing, or no breathing at all
  • Sudden confusion, disorientation, or hallucination
  • Loss of coordination, balance, or motor control skills
  • Drowsiness
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Sudden mood changes: aggression, agitation, anxiety, or depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hot skin temperature (overheated skin)
  • Seizures

An overdose can be intentional or accidental, and in many cases, fatal. The good news is most individuals who have overdoses can have higher chances of survival if first aid is performed quickly enough.

An overdose can be intentional or accidental. In many cases, overdoses are fatal, although most overdosed persons can be saved if medical treatment is provided quickly enough.


First Aid for Drug or Alcohol Overdose

  1. Assess the patient

Check the person’s level of consciousness. If they are not fully conscious or alert, put them into the recovery position. Gently turn the person onto their side and ensure they are not left alone.

  1. Reassure the patient

Talk to the person calmly and reassuringly. Call emergency services right away if the safety of the person or others becomes threatened.

  1. Identify the substance

If the person is conscious, ask what substance has been taken, how much, and whether they swallowed, inhaled, or injected it. Look for evidence that might help emergency services with their treatment. Keep the substance in any container, syringe, or needle to help with the analysis and identification.

  1. Perform CPR if necessary

If the person is not breathing or their breathing is shallow and dangerously weak, start CPR. Place the palm of your hands in the person’s chest and follow CPR guidelines for adults, children, and infants.



An overdose can present a whole lot of risks, even if the person seems okay at first. Consider first aid training for overdose response. Basic knowledge of first aid could mean the difference between life and death in an overdose emergency.

First Aid training can teach you how to prevent, recognise, and respond to a drug and alcohol overdose.

Enquire now for a First Aid course.

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