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Accidental Overdose

What Is it?

An overdose is what happens to someone’s body when they take too much of a substance or too many substances. They can be accidental when the person takes too much by mistake. They can also be intentional.

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Signs of Overdose

Signs of Overdose may include:

  • Change in body temperature (feeling warmer or colder)
  • Not moving and unresponsive (you cannot wake them up)
  • Change in skin color (flushed, blue-ish tone, or paleness)
  • Change in breathing
  • Change in pulse (fast, slow, or irregular)
  • Choking, gurgling, or snoring sounds
  • Clammy skin
  • Small pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Jerking limbs
  • Severe headaches
  • Extreme sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Confusion

What to Do?

What to do if you suspect someone is overdosing:


  • Stay with the person and remain calm
  • Call 911
  • Make sure the person’s airways are clear
  • Put the person on their side with a hand under their head
  • Use naloxone (this only works on an opioid overdose)
  • Remember SAVE ME
    • S – Stimulate – Wake them up. If you can’t, call 911
    • A – Airway – Make sure their airway is clear
    • V – Ventilate – Help them breathe (plug nose, tilt head back, and give them one breath every 5 seconds)
    • E – Evaluate – How are they doing? Have they gotten any better?
    • M – Muscular Injection – Inject naloxone (if you have a kit)
    • E – Evaluate and Support – How is the person doing? If they aren’t awake after the 5 minutes of naloxone, give another dose. Let them know they cannot use drugs for at least 2 years.


If distressed mentally:

  • Stay with the person and keep calm
  • Give them water or something with electrolytes
  • Give them a cool cloth for the back of their neck, under their underarms, and head
  • Get them in fresh air
  • If they are paranoid/aggressive, give them space
  • Encourage them not to take other substances

If distressed physically:

  • Call 911- tell the operator as much information as you are able
  • Stay with the person
  • Keep them awake

Preventing Overdose

  • Be aware of tolerance
  • Do not use alone
  • Do not mix substances
  • Pace yourself
  • Talk to a healthcare professional
  • Use in a safe place
  • Know CPR

Further Resources

All articles referenced above are collated here for your convenience and further reading:

If you would like to speak to someone about mental health issues, the Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line is available 24/7, offering information and referrals on any aspect of mental health.

Call toll-free: 1-877-303-2642

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