Opioid Overdose: Symptoms & Treatment

Opioids are a class of highly addictive drugs found in both illegal substances like heroin and prescription medications like oxycodone, codeine, and fentanyl. Misusing opioids increases the risk of life-threatening overdose.

In this page you will learn about the risks of opioids, including overdose causes, signs and symptoms, the dangers of laced drugs, and how to get help if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction.

What Is an Opioid Overdose?

An opioid overdose occurs when someone takes too much of the drug, leading to a potentially life-threatening situation where their body is unable to function normally.1 This can happen when someone uses illegal drugs, like heroin, or prescription medications like oxycodone.

In 2021, over 75% of drug overdoses in the U.S. that resulted in death involved an opioid.2 When opioids are combined with other substances, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, this increases the risk for overdose.3 This combination can be particularly dangerous, as the substances can have a more significant collective effect than each substance does individually.3

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Overdose

If you or someone you know uses opioids, it’s crucial to be aware of the signs of an opioid overdose. An overdose is dangerous and could result in permanent injury or death; it requires immediate intervention. Recognizing the signs of overdose can help save a life.

Signs of an opioid overdose include:4

  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Slowed or absent breathing.
  • Limp body.
  • Loss of consciousness or falling asleep.
  • Skin that’s pale, blue, or cold.
  • Gurgling or choking sounds.

An overdose is a critical situation. If you believe someone has overdosed, call 911 right away.

How to Help Someone Overdosing on Opioids

When someone is overdosing, taking immediate action to help can increase their chance of survival. If you notice someone overdosing, here are some steps that you can take:5,8

  • Call 911 and follow the operator’s instructions.
  • Check for signs of breathing.
  • If available, administer naloxone (Narcan, Klaxxado)
  • Turn the person onto their side into the recovery position (top knee bent).
  • Stay with the person until emergency services arrive.

Naloxone for Opioid Overdose

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it can block the effects of opioids and help counteract an overdose.6 It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse overdose.6

Narcan is an intranasal medication that is pre-dosed. It is available in all 50 states, often without a prescription, and can be carried by anyone.

Risk of Laced Opioids

While a life-threatening overdose can occur at any time, the rise of opioid overdose deaths is partly fueled by the dangers of laced drugs. Substances like illicitly manufactured fentanyl and xylazine are increasingly being mixed with opioids and other drugs, often unbeknownst to users, making them significantly more potent and potentially deadly.

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, is increasingly being mixed into other street drugs.7 This can be deadly because users might unknowingly consume a much stronger dose of opioids than they’re accustomed to, significantly increasing the risk of fatal overdose.11

Xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer not approved for human use, is increasingly being laced into opioids like fentanyl or heroin.9 This highly dangerous combination can significantly increase the risk of overdose and death.9

Xylazine slows down breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure, increasing the risk of overdose.Combining xylazine with opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol further intensifies its dangerous effects and makes overdoses more likely and life-threatening.9

Opioid Addiction Treatment in Texas

If you are struggling with opioids and need inpatient rehab near Dallas, contact our Greenhouse Treatment admissions navigators at for more information. They can help you start the admissions process and verify your insurance coverage. If you’re unsure if your insurance covers rehab, the admissions navigators can help.

We offer various ways to pay for rehab, so we can work with you if you don’t have insurance. You can start treatment today if you need help. You don’t have to fight addiction alone.


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