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Symptoms and Signs of Drug Overdose Symptoms, Home Care, and Hospital Treatment

Doctor's Notes on Drug Overdose Symptoms, Home Care, and Hospital Treatment

Drug overdoses are when individuals of any age accidentally or intentionally take chemicals (medications, illicit drugs, or other toxic substances) that are potentially harmful to the person. Signs and symptoms may vary markedly with whatever chemical is ingested, absorbed through the skin or injected. However, some general signs and symptoms of an unknown drug or chemical substance overdose usually include one or more of the problems listed below:

  • vital signs (temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure) can be abnormal (high, low or undetectable),
  • mental status changes such as abnormal sleepiness, confusion and/or coma may develop,
  • skin can be cool and sweaty or hot and dry,
  • eye pupils may be pinpoint or dilated,
  • abdominal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or blood in the vomitus or in bowel movements may occur,
  • serious symptoms of seizures, chest pain and shortness of breath and/or stoppage of breathing may occur, and
  • many drug overdoses have more than one sign or symptom that can lead to a life-threatening result or death.
  • The cause of drug overdoses in general is accidental or intentional ingestion, absorption or injection of a potentially life-threatening amount of one or more substances.

    Medical Author:
    Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.