The drug overdose epidemic has affected numerous people and households all through the U.S., and EMS suppliers are uncovered to this well being disaster day-after-day via their work. Opioid overdoses are a number one reason for demise within the U.S., even higher than automotive accidents and murder. To supply the very best look after overdose sufferers, suppliers should know what overdose signs appear to be, particularly airway problems and the perfect practices for treating them. 


Throughout these crises, each second issues. That can assist you and your staff stay ready for any overdose situation, let’s assessment a number of the indicators and strategies for addressing them as safely and effectively as attainable.


Recognizing an overdose


Together with unlawful drug abuse, overdoses can happen for a wide range of causes, such because the misuse of ache drugs and medication-assisted drug and alcohol remedies. Deadly overdoses can even happen when opioids are blended with nervousness therapy drugs, like derivatives of Benzodiazepine. Regardless of the circumstance, recognizing key overdose signs is crucial to saving sufferers’ lives.


Search for the next signs when figuring out a attainable overdose: 


  • The affected person’s face is extraordinarily pale and/or clammy to the contact.
  • Their physique is limp. 
  • Their fingernails or lips have a blue or purple colour.
  • They start vomiting or making gurgling noises.
  • They can’t get up or are unable to talk.
  • Their respiratory or heartbeat slows or stops 


Respiratory signs 


One of the vital essential signs of an overdose, notably an opioid overdose, is respiratory despair. This happens when the lungs fail to trade carbon dioxide and oxygen effectively, typically resulting in a buildup of carbon dioxide within the physique. Two tell-tale indicators of respiratory despair in sufferers are slowed speech and shallow respiratory. 


One other widespread overdose symptom, respiratory arrest, happens when a affected person stops respiratory or is respiratory ineffectively. This typically happens concurrently cardiac arrest. Among the extra widespread signs of airway compromise, together with respiratory arrest and the shortcoming to guard the airway, could also be harder to establish in sufferers who’re affected by an overdose. Just a few particular indicators to be careful for when investigating a tenuous airway embody decreased stage of consciousness, tachycardia (sometimes, higher than 130 heartbeats per minute) and pale, sweaty pores and skin. 


Therapy and airway administration 


One of many first components EMS suppliers ought to contemplate when using therapy for an overdose affected person is the affected person’s respiratory sample. It will assist distinguish between regular and irregular respiratory charges. Some irregular respiratory patterns to search for embody: 


  • Cheyne-Stokes: A cyclical sample that entails a progressive enhance in charge and depth, adopted by durations of apnea. 
  • Apnea: The absence of respiration, often lasting longer than 15 seconds. 
  • Hyperventilation: An elevated charge and depth of respiratory, often 20 to 30 breaths per minute, ensuing from fever, exertion, nervousness, acid-base imbalance or midbrain injury. 
  • Agonal respirations: A sample of gradual, shallow, deep or gasping respirations. 


Everytime you arrive to deal with a affected person who’s overdosing, defending the airway ought to be your instant precedence. This implies remaining outfitted with the right instruments for performing airway administration in a wide range of settings and circumstances. 


The gear you’ll want:  


  • Supplemental oxygen with adjuncts (non-rebreather masks)
  • Intubation gear
  • Varied tube sizes
  • Airway adjuncts
  • Equipment (lubricating gel for nasal intubation, for instance)
  • Transportable suction unit
  • Vary of suction catheters (versatile, inflexible, and large-bore evacuation)


Treating overdose sufferers can present super nervousness for suppliers, however understanding what respiratory signs to search for and the perfect strategies and gear to fight them will assist you and your staff put together for even probably the most high-stress affected person situations. Learn this text on respiratory emergencies to study extra about irregular respiratory patterns and airway administration. 




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