What to Do After an Overdose

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Streamlining the connection of individuals who have survived a nonfatal drug overdose with appropriate treatment can mitigate the risk of subsequent overdoses, life-threatening or otherwise.

NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that suggests that 1 in 20 of those who receive medical care at an emergency department for an overdose and are subsequently discharged face a life-threatening situation within a year. Among these, almost two-thirds of these tragic outcomes are attributable to opioid overdoses.

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This guide shows you what to do after an overdose and, equally importantly, what not to do after an overdose.

Overdose Recovery

Recovery following a drug overdose is a multifaceted journey that involves both physical and emotional healing. It encompasses several important aspects, including medical care, psychological support, and lifestyle changes. Read on to discover what happens after you overdose.

What to Expect After an Overdose

Although all cases of drug and alcohol overdose are unique, there are some common things to expect after an overdose. These include:

  • Medical stabilization: Immediate medical attention is critical following an overdose. Expect to receive care that focuses on stabilizing your physical condition, including monitoring vital signs, administering antidotes if applicable, and addressing any complications.
  • Psychological support: Overdoses can be emotionally distressing. It’s common to experience feelings of fear, guilt, or shame. Psychological support in the form of therapy or counseling, can help you cope with these emotions and address the root causes of addiction.
  • Addiction treatment: Overdose often highlights the need for addiction treatment. Expect to engage in comprehensive addiction treatment programs tailored to your specific needs. These may include detoxification, residential or outpatient therapy, and support groups.
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment): If applicable, your healthcare provider may recommend medication-assisted treatment to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. MAT can be a crucial component of your recovery plan.
  • Lifestyle changes: Recovery typically involves lifestyle changes, such as avoiding triggers and high-risk situations, adopting a healthier diet and exercise regimen, and establishing a stable daily routine.
image of person looking away to represent the question: "how long does an overdose take to recover?"

How Long Does it Take to Recover After an Overdose?

How long does an overdose take to recover? The timeline for recovery after an overdose is a complex and individualized process that depends on several factors, including the substance involved, the severity of the overdose, the individual’s overall health, and their commitment to the recovery journey. Here, we’ll explore the general stages and considerations for recovery duration:

Immediate medical stabilization (hours to days)

The initial phase of recovery begins immediately after the overdose incident. This stage typically involves:

  • Emergency care: Immediate medical attention is crucial. Healthcare providers focus on stabilizing the individual’s physical condition, ensuring vital signs are stable, and addressing any life-threatening complications. This phase can span hours to a few days, depending on the severity of the overdose.
  • Detoxification: If the overdose involves substances like opioids or alcohol, the detoxification process may begin in the hospital. This phase aims to rid the body of the toxic substance and manage withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction treatment (weeks to months)

Once the immediate medical crisis is managed, the journey toward recovery from addiction begins. Key considerations during this phase include:

  • Comprehensive assessment: Healthcare professionals conduct a thorough assessment to determine the extent of the addiction, any co-occurring mental health issues, and the most suitable treatment plan.
  • Treatment programs: The duration of addiction treatment programs can vary. Inpatient rehabilitation programs typically last 30 to 90 days, while outpatient programs may extend for several months. Long-term recovery may require ongoing participation in therapy and support groups.
  • MAT: MAT, if prescribed, can be an integral part of recovery. It may last for an extended period, helping manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Early recovery and adjustment (months to years)

The early phase of recovery involves significant adjustments as individuals adapt to a life without substances. Key considerations include:

  • Psychological healing: Emotional and psychological healing is an ongoing process. Therapy, counseling, and support groups help individuals address underlying issues, develop coping mechanisms, and build resilience.
  • Lifestyle changes: Maintaining sobriety often requires substantial lifestyle changes. Individuals learn to avoid triggers, establish healthier routines, and make positive choices.

Long-term recovery (years and beyond)

Long-term recovery represents a commitment to sustained sobriety and ongoing growth:

  • Relapse prevention: Learning to identify and manage triggers and stressors becomes a lifelong skill. Individuals continue to attend therapy, support groups, and counseling sessions to prevent relapse.
  • Healthy living: Embracing a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and stress management contributes to lasting recovery.
  • Personal growth: Sobriety opens doors to personal growth and self-discovery. Individuals may explore new interests, develop new skills, and find deeper meaning in life.

Recovery after an overdose, then, is a journey with no fixed timeline. While some people may make substantial progress in a relatively short time, others may require years of ongoing support and commitment to achieve lasting sobriety. Above all, understand that recovery is attainable and seek the help and resources you need to navigate the path to a healthier and addiction-free life.

After-Overdose Care

What happens after an overdose, then? Your healthcare provider will develop a comprehensive aftercare plan to support your recovery. This may include:

  • Regular medical check-ups to monitor your health and progress in recovery.
  • Continued therapy sessions to address underlying issues and develop coping strategies.
  • Participation in support groups can provide a sense of community and accountability in your recovery journey.
  • If you are undergoing MAT, careful management of medications ensures its effectiveness.
  • Guidance on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, nutrition, and stress management.

What to Do When You Overdose

If you or someone you know experiences an overdose, take immediate action. Seek emergency medical assistance without delay. Prompt medical attention can save lives.

While waiting for help, try to keep the person awake and responsive. Lay them on their side to prevent choking on vomit. Do not leave the person alone, as the situation can deteriorate rapidly.

If available and if the overdose involves opioids, administer naloxone (Narcan). This medication can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

When medical professionals arrive, provide them with as much information as possible about the substance involved and the circumstances.

Following an overdose, seek addiction treatment and support to prevent future occurrences. Seeking help, adhering to treatment plans, and making positive lifestyle changes are essential steps toward regaining health and well-being during overdose recovery.

image of woman representing overdose recovery

Get Help After Overdosing at California Detox

If you require help recalibrating your life after a drug or alcohol overdose, we can help you at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.

Our supervised medical detoxification program allows you to purge addictive substances from your system. Access medications and clinical care to streamline the overdose recovery process.

Following detox, you will be stabilized and ready to engage with ongoing inpatient treatment at our luxury beachside facility. All treatment programs blend science-backed and holistic therapies to help you move beyond a life defined by substance abuse. Treatments may include:

Call 949.694.8305 for help recovering from an overdose in California.



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