Drug Overdose (cont.)
Drug Overdose Treatment
Treatment will be dictated by the specific drug taken in the overdose. Information provided about amount, time, and underlying medical problems will be very helpful.
- The stomach may be washed out by gastric lavage (stomach pumping) to mechanically remove unabsorbed drugs from the stomach.
- Activated charcoal may be given to help bind drugs and keep them in the stomach and intestines. This reduces the amount absorbed into the blood. The drug, bound to the charcoal, is then expelled in the stool. Often, a cathartic is given with the charcoal so that the person more quickly evacuates stool from his or her bowels.
- Agitated or violent people need physical restraint and sometimes sedating medications in the emergency department until the effects of the drugs wear off. This can be disturbing for a person to experience and for family members to witness. Medical professionals go to great lengths to use only as much force and as much medication as necessary. It is important to remember that whatever the medical staff does, it is to protect the person they are treating. Sometimes the person has to be intubated (have a tube placed in the airway) so that the doctor can protect the lungs or help the person breathe during the detoxification process.
- For certain overdoses, other medicine may need to be given either to serve as an antidote to reverse the effects of what was taken or to prevent even more harm from the drug that was initially taken. The doctor will decide if treatment needs to include additional medicines.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/4/2015
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Must Read Articles Related to Drug Overdose
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Poisoning
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning is caused primarily by damage to the liver. Symptoms of acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal ...learn more >>
Aspirin poisoning is either accidental or intentional. Symptoms of aspirin poisoning include ringing in the ears, impaired hearing, rapid breathing, dehydration...learn more >>
Barbiturates are a group of drugs in the class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics, which generally describes their sleep-inducing and anxiety-decreasing effec...learn more >>
Patient Comments & Reviews
The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Drug Overdose: