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Drug Overdose (cont.)

Drug Overdose Causes

The cause of a drug overdose is either by accidental overuse or by intentional misuse. Accidental overdoses result from either a young child or an adult with impaired mental abilities swallowing a medication left within their grasp. An adult (especially elderly persons or people taking many medications) can mistakenly ingest the incorrect medication or take the wrong dose of a medication. Purposeful overdoses are for a desired effect, either to get high or to harm oneself.

  • Young children may swallow drugs by accident because of their curiosity about medications they may find. Children younger than 5 years (especially 6 months to 3 years) tend to place everything they find into their mouths. Drug overdoses in this age group are generally caused when someone accidentally leaves a medication within the child's reach. Toddlers, when they find medications, often share them with other children. Therefore, if you suspect an overdose in one child while other children are around, those other children may have taken the medication too.
  • Adolescents and adults are more likely to overdose on one or more drugs in order to harm themselves. Attempting to harm oneself may represent a suicide attempt. People who purposefully overdose on medications frequently suffer from underlying mental health conditions. These conditions may or may not have been diagnosed before.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/29/2014
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Injecting Drug Use »

The hypodermic syringe was invented in the mid-1800s. By the late 1800s and early 1900s in the United States, the public could purchase hypodermic needles and syringes legally, and opiates and cocaine were widely available.

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