The habitual use of a substance, despite negative consequences and dependency resulting from it, is a real and dangerous problem for many Americans. Drug abuse is all too common in our society.
In 2012, a reported 23.9 million people were abusing an illicit substance or psychotherapeutic drug, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The most commonly abused substances that people overdose on include:
The ultimate side effect
Unfortunately, many people who abuse drugs spend their last moments doing so. Overdose is a harsh reality for many addicts and abusers, and it doesn’t just happen to those users who don’t know how to cut back. Accidental overdose is a real issue, too. According to the Washington Post, drug overdoses are responsible for an average of 100 or more deaths every day.
Alcohol is the most widely abused substance across the board. Some believe this is true merely because it’s legal and therefore is presumed to come with fewer risks, while others simply think people binge on booze so much because it’s more accessible. Either way, the dangers of habitual alcohol abuse are quite clear, including:
- Increased engagement in risky behaviors like unprotected sex and drunk driving
- Delirium tremens
Overdose is the most serious of all side effects. Drug War Facts
notes alcohol-induced deaths are on the rise, with the tally reaching 27,762 in 2012, up from 25,692 in 2010.
There is no one set amount of alcohol that is safe for all persons to consume. Much of the way alcohol affects you is individual. While one person may become hyper and the life of the party after a few drinks, another may become groggy and depressed.
Some fare just fine going out for happy hour once a week while others find themselves returning night after night unable to put down the glass after they’ve started.
How much alcohol is too much for you depends on several factors, such as your weight, metabolism, what you’ve eaten that day, and how hydrated you are. Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a measurement of the amount of alcohol in one’s blood. If yours reaches 0.28, you’re at risk for an overdose. The NIAAA
notes almost 88,000 deaths stem from alcohol-related causes every year.
Some believe that because they’re frequent drinkers alcohol overdose is less likely to happen to them; this is not true. As your tolerance grows for alcohol, so does your risk of overdose, because you keep upping your intake of the potent liquid. After consuming 21 standard drinks in six hours or fewer, 95 percent of people would be at risk for overdosing, states Virginia Tech
Cocaine has caused many lives to be shortened in its wake. Each year, more than 5,000 people die from a cocaine-related drug overdose, the Scripps Research Institute
reports. How much is too much coke? On average, about 1.2 grams, but some people have proven to be more sensitive to the drug’s effects and have died with doses as small as 30 milligrams. Other stimulants like amphetamines and methamphetamines are highly addictive, dangerous when abused, and carry the potential for overdose.
One of the most dangerous aspects of heroin is tolerance, and this is especially true for those trying to quit. A large percentage of heroin overdose-related deaths that occur are in patients who have relapsed. This is because tolerance decreases during detox and withdrawal. Thus, when a patient emerges from such and goes back to heroin abuse, they take a dose similar to their last one, assuming that their tolerance is still the same when it isn’t. The result is often death. Between 2010 and 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes heroin-related overdose deaths more than doubled from 1 per 100,000 to 2.1 per 100,000 people.
There is no set amount of heroin that is “too much,” per se, because not only do your brain and body metabolize things at different rates than someone else’s does, but the potency of your supply and your tolerance level vary as well. Almost all heroin has been cut with something else, like flour or cornstarch. Little to no heroin is ever totally pure, and cutting the drug with other substances isn’t an exact science either. Thus, you could buy a supply from your dealer this week and its potency could be far weaker than what you got last time, causing you to up your dosage. Then imagine buying more next time and the supply being much stronger in concentration, but using the same dosing rhythm you did with the last batch. See the potential for overdose?
Prescription opioid pain relievers present an even bigger issue than heroin and cocaine combined when it comes to overdose. These potent painkillers claimed the lives of nearly 17,000 people in 2012, according to the Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence. How much is too much involves how much you’re accustomed to taking currently and how quickly you advance yourself to stronger dosage levels. Often, those who die with opioid painkillers in their system have been mixing them with other substances, like alcohol or other drugs. Prescription benzodiazepines accounted for 30 percent of all pharmaceutical drug overdoses in 2012, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
No one is exempt from overdose. Remember that most people who have accidentally overdosed weren’t expecting it and thought it would never happen to them, too. The risk of overdose increases in people who:
- Binge on alcohol or drugs
- Relapse after treatment
- Mix substances
- Are suffering from mental illness
Individuals with mental health disorders are more likely to overdose on a substance, especially with intent. Depression is one of the most common mental health issues plaguing substance abusers. Of all drug addicts, around 53 percent have a serious mental illness, and 37 percent of alcoholics do, according to Helpguide.
Treating overdose is just the first step. If you, or someone you know, abuse drugs or alcohol, you should always be prepared and know the warning signs of an overdose, which are:
- Slowed or cessated breathing
- Small pupils
- Nausea, with or without vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Dizzy spells
Treatment for overdose is dependent upon which substance was ingested. For example, treating alcohol or opioid overdose often consists of administering naltrexone, while someone who has overdosed on cocaine needs constant supervision and sometimes will be given prescription benzodiazepines to calm seizures or agitation that the drug can inflict in large doses. The same applies in treating overdoses for both amphetamines and methamphetamines. Heroin and prescription opioid overdoses are usually completely reversed when caught in time.
If you’ve experienced overdose, there’s no better time to consider detox and substance abuse treatment. The Recovery Village can help you turn your life around. Call us today to learn more.