An overdose can be a sign that it is time to evaluate your drug use and begin to take action. An overdose is not something to hide or bury under continued substance use. Your life may depend on connecting with other people who want to support your wellness. If you have overdosed on a prescription drug, you are not alone.
Prescription drug overdoses originally begin with the misuse of one of three types of medications:
- Stimulants: This group includes drugs that are commonly used to treat attention deficit disorders (ADHD/ADD), and include drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Focalin.
- Opioids: These drugs include narcotic painkillers, sometimes called opiates, and include drugs such as morphine, Vicodin, Oxycodone, OxyContin, and Fentanyl. These drugs have become a huge issue in the United States and opioid overdoses kill approximately 40 people each day.
- Depressants: These drugs treat sleep disorders, anxiety, and some sleep disorders and include benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin.1
If you survived an overdose this time, your chances of a lethal overdose are higher than ever. People who continue to abuse prescription medications after an overdose also risk long-term health damage and illness that they must permanently live with along with the terrifying prospect of a future overdose.
Step #1: Recognize the Wake-Up Call
While it would be great to think that any and every overdose leads to clarity of thought and motivation for change, an overdose does not always lead to the immediate decision to get help. You may make the decision to get help right after an overdose, or it may still take some time to realize the hold that substance use has on your life.
Unfortunately, many people experience an overdose, or even witness overdoses of their using buddies or their loved ones and continue to use prescription or illegal drugs. This is the nature of addiction: people continue to use these dangerous drugs despite clear awareness of the dangers.
It may take time to see an overdose for what it really is, but regardless of whether you have resumed drug use after overdose or not, it is never the wrong time to acknowledge the wake-up call and move on to the second step to seek help.
Step #2: Get Help
Once you recognize an overdose as a wake-up call and decide to get help and support for recovery, you will be on the path to a better life. You don’t have to be fully decided or determined about a drug-free life, as ambivalence about recovery is common at first. Your treatment team and your supporters can help you build motivation for change through various forms of therapy such as motivational interviewing. As long as you make the first move and reach out for help, there will be professionals, resources, and peers available at every point of recovery to guide, support, and encourage you.
A great resource when first considering recovery is a free helpline such as ours. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day and are here to help you give the idea of recovery a direction, plan and structure.
When you call 855-808-6212, you will speak directly with a caring, confidential and knowledgeable recovery coordinator.
Many of the people you meet in recovery will have been where you are, and many have experienced their own or a loved one's overdose. Recovery professionals chose their career to help others learn about what steps come next and how to find the best recovery programs.
Our recovery coordinators are here to help you take care of the details so you can arrange travel to treatment or navigate insurance coverage for care, and our team will be with you through every part of recovery from detox and treatment to aftercare and long-term maintenance. Calling our helpline makes the next step – healing – accessible to anyone.
Step #3: Let Your Brain and Body Heal
Once you have gotten help and begun a recovery program, it is time to heal. Healing take place on physical, psychological, emotional and social levels. Overdoses are damaging on many levels. Many people who overdose will go on to recover and often have no lasting ill health effects. Others may recover, but have organ damage as a result of the overdose. This can include damage to the heart, liver, or kidneys. Your physical recovery may be quick, or it may take some time.
Medical professionals are employed by quality rehab programs to oversee withdrawal, provide the physical care needed for healing after overdose and to recommend and encourage ways you can pursue a physically healthy, drug-free life.
Your comprehensive treatment may include referrals to a nutritionist, ideas for types of exercise that will be right for you, and ongoing check-ups to monitor health and progress.
Physical healing is only part of moving forward after overdose, although it is not a negligible part. A great deal of healing comes from therapy and from understanding the causes and effects of drug use. You are already familiar with one consequence of continued drug use — overdose — and your therapist can help you acknowledge where else addiction has harmed your life and how you can reverse this damage. The psychological and emotional healing supported in treatment helps you make and keep changes in your life and move on to step four.
Step #4: Stick with Abstinence
If you want to avoid an overdose, your only course of action is to get clean and stay clean. A complete recovery protects you from the physical and psychological harm of addiction, and while it may seem like a distant or impossible feat, know that recovery gets easier with time. The longer you stay drug free, the more likely you are to remain drug free.
Maintaining recovery through the use of ongoing counseling and support actually makes recovery easier, and it makes it easier to avoid relapse and the possibility of another overdose. For this reason Black Bear offers alumni group meetings and events, as well as comprehensive aftercare planning and assistance.
Relapse is obviously not a goal of any recovering individual, but relapses can and do happen. When individuals slip in recovery, they are at greater risk for overdose than ever before.
For instance, many people who have been addicted to opioids are not aware that their time in abstinence has allowed their body to heal, which lowers their tolerance for outside opiates. In other words, our bodies will adapt to the way we treat ourselves. If a person has entered recovery, he or she simply cannot physically tolerate a sudden influx of opioids.
If a person relapses, he is likely to consume the same dose that he once used before entering sobriety. Once you have abstained from opiate use, your tolerance will decrease, which will lead to an overdose. An amount that was taken “safely” before abstinence can be a dangerous or deadly amount after detox.
Sticking with recovery is important for so many reasons. It prevents immediate harm or tragedy resulting from overdose, and it provides healthy habits and new ways of thinking and acting for long-term success. Recovery is a life-long process, but it is one that will save your life. Consider making a call today at 855-808-6212 before it is too late.
1 American Public Health Association. Prescription Drug Overdose. 2018.