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Opioid Overdose: Care Instructions

Overview

You have had treatment to help your body recover from taking too much of an opioid. You are getting better, but you may not feel well for a while. It takes time for the opioids to leave your body. How long it takes to feel better depends on which drug you took and how much you took of it.

Opioids include illegal drugs such as heroin, often called smack, junk, and H. Opioids also include medicines that doctors prescribe to treat pain. These are medicines such as oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine. They are sometimes sold and used illegally.

Taking too much of an opioid can be dangerous. It may cause:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • A low heart rate.
  • A coma.

When the doctor treated you for the overdose, your doctor may have:

  • Watched your symptoms or done tests to find out what kind of drug you took.
  • Given you fluids.
  • Given you oxygen to help you breathe.
  • Given you a medicine called naloxone to help reverse the effects of the opioid.
  • Done several tests, including blood tests, to see how you're responding to treatment.

The doctor also watched you carefully to make sure you were recovering safely.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If you take opioids regularly, your body gets used to them. This is called physical dependence. If you are physically dependent on opioids, you may have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using them or use less. These symptoms can include nausea, sweating, chills, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and muscle aches. Withdrawal can last up to several weeks, depending on which opioid you took and how long you took it. You may feel very ill, but you probably aren't in medical danger.
  • Your doctor may give you medicine to help you feel better. To help you get through withdrawal, you can also:
    • Get plenty of rest.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Stay active, but don't overdo it.
    • Eat a healthy diet.
  • If you had a tube in your throat to help you breathe, you may have a sore throat or hoarseness that can last a few days. Sip liquids to help soothe your throat.
  • Having an overdose puts you at a higher risk of having a second one. Take your medications as prescribed. Do not mix alcohol with medicines that make you tired, like sleeping pills or muscle relaxers.
  • Do not drive if you feel sleepy or groggy while you recover from an overdose.
  • Get help to stop using opioids. Talk to your doctor about substance use treatment programs.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about a take-home naloxone kit. A kit can help, and can even save your life, if you have taken too much opioids. You can get a naloxone kit without a prescription at most drugstores or through a community Take Home Naloxone program.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse withdrawal symptoms, such as:
    • Stomach cramps.
    • Vomiting.
    • Diarrhea.
    • Muscle aches.
    • Sweating.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.