What happens when you overdose on pills?
Drugs are prescribed for various medical conditions. Many people also resort to prescription pills like opioids to "feel good." This is true for patients battling some mental health problems.
Whether it's opioids or some other regular pill, an overdose can be very dangerous. An overdose can cause breathing difficulty and even death, depending on the drug and amount taken. One can get overdosed accidentally. Other times, it's due to illicit use resulting from addiction.
If you or or loved one has gotten overdosed on any pill, call 911 immediately.
Can an overdose cause death?
Opioid overdose can be quite fatal. Opioids were involved in 49,860 overdose deaths in 2019 (70.6% of all drug overdose deaths). Even when the patient gets medical intervention as early as possible, sometimes death from an opioid overdose is just inevitable.
However, it doesn't always lead to death. Some individuals are lucky to escape death after an opioid overdose.
But does it end with whether or not the patient dies? Or does opioid overdose affect the brain even when the patient doesn't lose their life?
This is the one question that led Erin Winstanley and James Mahoney to research the brain after an opioid overdose.
How does opioid overdose affect the brain?
Winstanley and Mahoney -- researchers with the West Virginia University School of Medicine and Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute -- reviewed 79 published studies on the brain of individuals after nonfatal opioid overdoses.
Although there were limitations with virtually all the studies, the researchers could see brain abnormalities and neurocognitive impairments associated with opioid overdose.
The primary focus should indeed be on saving the lives of people who get an overdose. But it's also important that we understand what happens to them as it can impact their life later on. And without a doubt, people abuse drugs every day.
But more research is needed for one to be certain about the actual problems the patient will later face. That's because all the studies that have been done on nonfatal opioid overdose were riddled with inconsistencies, bias, and limitations.
Very few of the studies reported toxicology results confirming the overdose, some failed to measure the participants' cognitive/intellectual functioning prior to the overdose, and others didn't specify if the participants had used any other drugs apart from opioids.
Even the overdose itself is a variable. For instance, how long the patient remained in that oxygen-deprived state and how early they received treatment can affect the research results. In short, there are still many variables unaccounted for.
But in all, one thing stands: an opioid overdose has the potential to change how the brain functions. Consequently, the chances can negatively influence the person's memory, attention, and several other cognitive functions.
Preventing unintentional opioid overdose
It's true that one may not intentionally get overdosed. Sometimes, it's a mistake or a combination of other factors.
Perhaps you're on an opioid prescription as a pain management strategy. Whatever the case, here are ways to prevent an overdose:
- Adhere strictly to doctor's prescription
- Do not mix drugs
- Have naloxone nearby
- Speak with a licensed mental health professional about substance abuse disorder if you believe you're at risk.