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5 minutes

Symptoms of Overdose: What Happens When You Overdose on Drugs

Medically Reviewed
Last Medically Reviewed on: June 25, 2022
A frustrated woman on the couch

Written by

Kevin Lang

Updated on

22 Jun, 2022

Unfortunately, as more people are experimenting with drugs recreationally, drug overdose rates are also increasing. The number of drug overdose deaths in 2019 is four times higher than in 1999, with nearly 70% of overdoses resulting in death from an overdose on opioids. Even more troublesome is that some people who overdose on drugs have no idea that they are experiencing an overdose. This is particularly true if the user is heavily influenced by a drug and cannot distinguish the overdose effects. Therefore, to mitigate the chances of a fatal overdose, one must learn what the symptoms of overdose look like and, most importantly, how to get help if they are suffering from an addiction or experiencing an overdose.

Symptoms of Overdose on Drugs

By definition, an overdose is taking too much of a substance, whether it be from a prescription or over-the-counter drug, legally or illegally. If you are taking more than the prescribed amount or enough of the drug to reap harmful consequences on your body, then you have overdosed. People who purposely overdose are typically looking for the desired effect, whether to get a high from the drug or harm themselves.

On the other hand, accidental overdoses can happen just as common and should be treated with as much care as a purposeful overdose. These accidental overdoses typically happen when either a young child or an adult with impaired medical abilities swallow a medication within their grasp. This also can happen when a senior mistakenly ingests the wrong medication dosage.

Just as a drug can uniquely affect an individual based on a variety of factors, like genetics, amount of the drug taken, physical or medical history, etc., so too can the symptoms of overdose uniquely affect the user. You do not need to align with certain common overdose symptoms to seek help. If you feel uncomfortable with the symptoms you are experiencing from taking a drug, legally or illegally, you need help.

With that being said, it is imperative that you understand that certain people may be more sensitive to certain medications than others and, therefore, should not base their prescription dosage on what they think they should be taking. Listen to your body and consult with a doctor if you feel that you are being adversely affected by a drug.

Common symptoms of a drug overdose include:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Agitation
  • Aggression or violence
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions

Because many of these symptoms coincide with taking drugs in the first place, you mustn’t delay seeking help because you think you are “fine.” Getting medical help immediately can save your life and make a major difference in the effectiveness of detox and treatment protocols for overdosing.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Overdose

Withdrawal symptoms experienced can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the individual’s genetic make-up, type of drug taken, history of drug abuse, the dosage of the drug, and whether the drug was taken with other substances, like opioids. These are a highly addictive class of drugs typically prescribed to reduce pain (but commonly used illegally, like in the case of heroin).

Common signs of withdrawal from opioids include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Shaking
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Body aches
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes

Another common substance most often abused, alcohol, can have mild to severe withdrawal symptoms as early as 6 hours after one’s last drink.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Shaky hands
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

If a person is highly dependent on alcohol, they may experience severe withdrawal in the form of hallucinations or seizures about 12 to 24 hours after the last drink. It is important to note that every drug has varying withdrawal symptoms experienced. As such, it is vital that if one suspects an overdose may be at hand that they seek help immediately. Furthermore, this list is not all-inclusive and, as such, should not be used in place of professional medical guidance. Any reason to suspect an overdose is being experienced is enough to reach out for help. Getting help immediately can save your life.

How to Get Help When You Have Symptoms of Overdose

To prevent overdose, you must remove the opportunities for accidental or intentional overdose. If you are taking prescription drugs recommended by your doctor, ensure you take them only as directed. If you feel the urge to take more than needed, you may need extra help as an addiction may be at hand.

One of the best ways to eliminate the temptation of a drug overdose is to attend an inpatient drug treatment facility that can guide you toward recovery and sobriety. Inpatient drug rehab is one of the most effective ways to get sober and stay sober in the long run because it removes distractions and temptations that often allure people to stay in the cycle of misusing drugs. By separating yourself from the harmful patterns and behavior around drug use for some time, you can work on the core issues of why drugs were abused in the first place, thus setting a solid foundation for lifelong sobriety.

Additionally, with the help of skilled therapists and counselors, you can get to the root of the desire to abuse drugs in the first place. Knowing why drugs were abused will help you navigate the waters of life more smoothly and effortlessly once transitioning out of rehab, making it easier to combat any of life’s challenges drug-free. Furthermore, with trained medical professionals on staff, you can rest assured knowing that your detox is in safe hands, allowing you to focus on the things that matter most in your recovery process.

If you suspect you have overdosed or are currently on the path of addiction, the time to seek help is now. Don’t let another precious moment go by without getting the help you need and deserve. Reach out today and get on the path to recovery right now.


Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding the Epidemic | Drug Overdose | CDC Injury Center. Published March 17, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2022.

2. Rodriguez A. Drug Overdose: Definition, Treatment, Prevention, and More. Healthline. Published February 25, 2020. Accessed June 25, 2022.

3. Casarella J. Drug Overdose Basics. WebMD. Published June 8, 2020. Accessed June 25, 2022.

4. Smith M. Opioid and Opiate Withdrawal. WebMD. Published August 10, 2020. Accessed June 25, 2022.

5. DiLonardo MJ. Alcohol Withdrawal: What Happens When You Stop Drinking? WebMD. Published November 26, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2022.

6. Purse M. What Is a Hallucination? Verywell Mind. Published July 21, 2020. Accessed June 25, 2022.

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