Heroin Overdose Treatment
If you see heroin overdose signs, don’t wait. Call 911 immediately. Heroin overdose treatment may be the first step towards recovery.
There’s been more education, improved response, and the declaration of a national emergency. However, heroin abuse and heroin overdose death rates continue to be a problem in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), death rates from opioids, in general, accounted for 67 percent of all overdose deaths in 2017. Twenty-three states had a “statistically significant increase” in their overall numbers of overdose deaths.
Heroin Overdose and Addiction: Separating Myth From Fact
The facts about heroin addiction and death are bad enough without sifting through misinformation when you’re looking for help. One myth is that heroin addiction happens immediately. While it’s true that addiction sets in quickly, it takes regular use to reach the level of tolerance that leads to dependency and addiction.
Another myth is that you have to use a lot of heroin or use it for a long time before you can overdose. Overdoses are most likely among older users with a high opioid tolerance. There are many variables in the manufacturing and habit of cutting drugs with whatever other substance you find lying around. Therefore, one tainted batch can lead to multiple deaths among users, and it can happen with the first use.
You’ll also find a high number of individuals who overdose within days of leaving a rehab facility and relapsing. This number is because they had a high tolerance for heroin before they attended detox, and then they try to use the same amount when they relapse.
One thing that puzzles some researchers is the high incidences of death when the individual has relatively low levels of heroin in their bloodstream. In such cases, death is usually due to respiratory failure rather than heroin toxicity. The rates increase when heroin is used with other drugs or taken while using alcohol.
An example is the number of deaths that occur when the user mixes heroin with cocaine. Professionals call this mixture a speedball. This combination can also be ingested accidentally when the dealer uses the cheaper drug (heroin) to cut the more expensive drug (cocaine). The two drugs have different half-lives, and cocaine cravings begin sooner than heroin cravings. As a result, users are more likely to use the drugs again while there is still a high amount of heroin present in the system.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the overdose, without fast heroin overdose treatment, the individual will die.
What Are The Signs of Heroin Overdose?
Knowing how to spot the signs of heroin overdose means faster intervention and a higher chance of recovery. Because the individual is often suffering from respiratory distress or failure, brain damage due to lack of oxygen can set in quickly, and it may be irreversible. There may be other medical problems that need to be dealt with after professionals stop the effects of the overdose. These include secondary injuries from falls, heart problems, liver disease, and infections from injection sites. Patients should also receive screenings for HIV and hepatitis during recovery.
According to guidelines published by the National Library of Medicine, the symptoms of a heroin overdose are:
- Shallow or halted breathing
- Dry mouth
- Pinpoint pupils
- Weak pulse
- Pale, clammy skin
- Bluish fingernails, lips, and tongue
- Stomach cramps and spasms
- Delirium or extreme confusion
- Extreme sleepiness or loss of consciousness
The best way to avoid overdose from any drug is by going to rehab so you can quit using them. An overdose is one of the surest signs that you need treatment.
Heroin Overdose Treatment
The good news is that people don’t have to fear legal consequences if they report a heroin overdose. This change is because the scope of the opioid epidemic has decriminalized the drug. This change in mindset among emergency workers and law enforcement has saved lives. The goal is to reduce heroin overdose death rates and get people into treatment.
Historically, doctors conduct heroin overdose treatment in a hospital or other medical facility. There are a record number of deaths in homes, cars, and in the streets. For this reason, first responders in many municipalities carry the means to reverse an overdose in the field with them. In some high-risk communities, overdose-reversing drugs are placed in boxes with instructions so that companions of pedestrians who suspect an overdose can act quickly. Although results are better if trained professionals administer these, the sooner an overdose victim gets help, the better their chances of surviving heroin poisoning.
Drugs Used to Reverse Heroin Overdose
The most common drug professionals find useful for quickly reversing an opiate overdose is naloxone hydrochloride. Pharmacists sell this product under the brand name Narcan™ or as a generic under the pharmaceutical name naloxone. The FDA approved this drug in 1971. However, it has come into extensive use for halting an overdose on the spot. It’s non-habit-forming, and it’s not a controlled substance, so there’s no penalty for possession. Most paramedics and law enforcement officers carry it with them at all times.
The drug works by combating respiratory failure in overdose victims; you administer it using an injection or nasal spray. There’s also an auto-injectable form called EVZIO®. This drug consists of a pre-filled injection that’s similar to an epi-pen. This form is easy for family members and friends to keep on hand when they’re coping with an addicted loved one.
Usually, one dose will work on most patients. However, complicating factors like the presence of fentanyl in the bloodstream can require a second dose to ensure effectiveness. The good news is, no opioids are naloxone-resistant, not even fentanyl.
Most deaths occur within one to three hours of ingesting a fatal dosage of heroin, so time is of the essence when seeking treatment.
Sometimes, the doctors use the same drug to reverse an overdose and during detox. Other times doctors prescribe opioids under medical supervision for treating withdrawal and for long-term medical maintenance in the most severe cases of addiction with multiple relapses. These include Suboxone and methadone.
Is it necessary for a person to go to the hospital after being given overdose-reversing drugs at home or in the street? Since there may be other health effects or injuries, it’s always better to receive a medical evaluation after surviving an overdose. However, further hospitalization rarely makes a difference. So most patients are discharged once they’re out of immediate danger.
As far as administering drugs to stop an overdose, these are the guidelines. Since it’s an injection, Narcan should only be administered by a medical professional. Anyone can operate other forms, like the auto-injectable and nasal spray, but only if they know what type of drugs the person took. That means it’s essential to know the signs of an overdose. However, being on the safe side is not known to harm patients who are given any naloxone derivative as a preventative measure.
Why is Heroin Addiction Still a Problem?
Heroin addiction has waxed and waned over the years, reaching a particular sort of glamour during the days of “heroin chic” in the fashion and film industries in the 90s and early millennium. Now opioids have reached the mainstream. They affect the affluent as well as the down and out. As a result, there’s been a steady increase in addiction rates as a fallout from the opioid crisis.
When patients can no longer get the painkillers that hooked them, they’ll turn to cheaper and more deadly forms of the drug, like heroin and fentanyl.
The demographic shift has also led to a change in how we handle heroin overdose and how medical professionals treat heroin addiction.
Just how widespread is the problem of a heroin overdose? How can you help save someone you love from becoming another statistic?
Shocking Heroin Overdose Statistics
If you want to gauge the scope of the problem, it’s necessary to take a look at the numbers. Although the federal government doesn’t track overdose deaths for specific drugs, there is enough reporting to get a pretty good idea of the extent of the problem.
Some astounding heroin overdose statistics demonstrate just how great the risk from heroin use has become. A report released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 98,000 Americans used heroin in 2016. Of that number, 170,000 used it for the first time; the bulk of those were young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. In 2017, that number jumped to 494,000.
From 2010 to 2017, deaths by heroin overdose increased five-fold, bringing the total number to approximately 15,000 per year. The highest death rate is for men between the ages of 25 and 44, which suggests the possibility that long-term use among young adults leads to long-term addiction and possible death.
Is There Hope After Heroin?
As long as you’re alive, there’s always hope. Between mandatory coverage for addiction treatment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and employee leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), anyone can find affordable addiction recovery treatment without fear of losing their job. The best option for recovery is to enter an in-patient facility that offers detox and mental health services. Specialists design these programs to tackle problems that you face. Our approaches include:
- Medically assisted withdrawal
- Diagnosis and treatment of concurrent health and mental health issues
- Peer-to-peer support
- Long-term treatment, aftercare, social support, and medical maintenance to reduce relapse rates
Knowing the heroin overdose signs and getting heroin overdose treatment should be your wake up call. It’s time to get treatment at a heroin addiction treatment center. Stepping Stone Center for Recovery is available 24/7 to discuss your options. Contact us anytime at 866.957.4960.