What to Do During A Loved One’s Overdose

As we continue to observe National Recovery Month, Recovery Unplugged would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the millions who are still out there actively struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and the millions more that are still vulnerable to relapse and subsequent overdose. While relapse is an unfortunately common part of the relapse process, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your recovery. What it does mean, however, is the heightened possibility of overdose. Every year, thousands of Americans have the traumatic and alarming experience of walking in on their friend or loved one in the throes of an overdose; should you find yourself in the same unenviable position, there are a few things you can and should do quickly:

Call 911 – While there are certain lifesaving measures you may be able to take while you’re waiting for an ambulance, getting medical help quickly is the first thing you should do. When you’re on the phone with the dispatcher, be sure to provide as much information as possible, including whether or not they’re still breathing, the type of drugs they’ve taken (if you know), how long its been since they’ve last used (if you know) and if more than one drug was involved.

Administer CPR – If necessary, take active measures to resuscitate your loved one by administering CPR. If you are not trained in adult CPR or are unsure of what to do, you can have the 911 representative walk you through it. Loved ones of those vulnerable to drug and alcohol overdose are highly encouraged to either refer to an online resource for CPR training or get certified through an established program. Be sure to also contact poison control, even if your loved one is conscious.

Deploy Naloxone (If Applicable) – More and more family members, caregivers and loved ones are receiving naloxone (better known as Narcan) training in response to the rampant uptick in fatal opioid overdoses. Naloxone rapidly delivers a single dose of the drug naloxone via a hand-held auto-injector that can be carried in a pocket or stored in a medicine cabinet.

Stay Calm and Refrain from Panic – The calmer and more articulate you are, the more effective you can be in communicating the situation to medical personnel and taking action to save your loved one’s life. Overdose is a time-sensitive matter and requires swift, decisive and focused intervention. Being at your best may mean the difference between life and death.

The tragic realty of addiction is that it takes users and their loved ones to places nobody should ever have to go; sometimes this even means to the point of no return. It also means that loved ones of active drug users and alcoholics have to be ready to face the horrific and unthinkable possibility of overdose and rise to the occasion when they do.