What Happens During a Painkiller Overdose?

A painkiller overdose can happen easier than you think. All it takes is one occurrence of ingesting a large number of pills in one sitting to do it. An overdose on painkillers can be accidental and quite terrifying. It is important to know the signs of painkiller overdose for yourself and family members if there is ever an emergency.  

You or a loved one might actually be addicted to painkillers. This is a common occurrence and nothing to be ashamed about. The opioid epidemic caused the world a lot of hurt and continues to do so to this day. If you recently had a surgery where you were prescribed a medication, you might have become addicted to it. This isn’t your fault, and there is help for your condition. Call us today and we can evaluate your situation to get you the correct help that you need. We are available for any questions you may have because we want to help you heal. Don’t hesitate to call us right now at 405-583-4390. Healing is closer than you think! 


If you or someone you love is suffering from a potential painkiller overdose, then continue reading. We can help you start your recovery journey today.

Purposeful or Accidental Abuse of Painkillers

A painkiller overdose is when an individual takes more than the recommended amount of painkillers that their doctor prescribed. Sometimes it isn’t intentional. People might take too many unknowingly and have an overdose. While others might take an excessive amount of pills to get high, but unintentionally overdose. The opioids in painkillers are designed to block the pain your body is going through. Essentially, they attach to opioid receptors in your brain and tell your nerve cells to ignore the pain. If taken correctly, this is all they will do. But if the painkiller pills are taken more than recommended, they can make an individual feel happy, calm, and high. 

The opioids in painkillers are highly addictive. Therefore, an addiction to painkillers can form accidentally, especially if you do not follow the doses correctly. There is a range of people who are at risk of developing an addiction and possibly overdosing. It can be as simple as a person with a pain killer prescription after surgery and addiction occurred accidentally. Or it can be an individual who is purposefully taking the painkillers to feel good. If your purpose is to get high, you run more of a risk of overdosing on painkillers. The risk is even higher if you are mixing painkillers with alcohol, other medications, or illegal drugs.   

It is very dangerous when you mess with a substance that attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain. It becomes very difficult to stop an addiction that ties in chemically with the brain. But it is possible to overcome it. That is why we are here to offer our help to you. You can call us on any day at any time and we can find a treatment center for you or answer questions or concerns you may have. 

Commonly Abused Medications

An overdose can occur on any type of medication. But there are some medications that have been repeatedly abused throughout the years and have been flagged as such. According to the Policy Impact guide on Prescription Painkiller Overdose from the CDC, the medications that are commonly misused, for instance, are: 

  • Opioids 
    • Vicodin 
    • Oxycodone 
    • Duragesic and Fentora (fentanyl) 
    • Methadone 
    • Codeine  
  • Benzodiazepines 
    • Xanax (alprazolam) 
    • Valium (diazepam) 
    • Ativan (lorazepam) 
  • Amphetamine-like drugs 
    • Adderall (dextroamphetamine/amphetamine) 
    • Ritalin (methylphenidate) 
    • Concerta (methylphenidate) 

Furthermore, opioids are used for pain relief, benzodiazepines are sedatives designed to induce sleep and relieve anxiety, and amphetamines are used to treat ADHD. When they are mishandled becoming high is not the only possible outcome. You can overdose on painkillers because of how they are attached to your brain and the functions of your body.

How an Overdose can Occur

The opioids in pain killers lock onto receptors in the brain. Their intention is to block pain, but they can end up doing more than that if they are misused. Often opioids make a person feel calmer and more relaxed, another intention involved around a person in pain. The opioids bind in the bind but they also are connected to a person’s breathing due to its sedative effects.  

According to the Policy Impact guide on Prescription Painkiller Overdose from the CDC, “a person who is abusing prescription painkillers might take larger doses to achieve a euphoric effect and reduce withdrawal symptoms. These larger doses can cause breathing to slow down so much that breathing stops, resulting in a fatal overdose.” 

When the regulation of breathing is interfered with like this, the individual can’t seek help unless another person is with them who is capable of calling 911. In addition, if you are taking pills with someone and they stop breathing, you have to call 911 immediately. If you are unsure if they are in trouble, then it is important to know the signs of a painkiller overdose. We encourage you to not let it go too far and instead call us today if you think you or a loved one has a problem with prescription painkillers.  

Slowed Breathing is a Critical Sign of Overdose

There are signs to be aware of when it comes to a painkiller overdose. You will without a doubt know if someone is slipping into an overdose because the signs and symptoms are easy to spot and scary. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the signs of an opioid painkiller overdose, for example, include:   

  • The person’s face is extremely pale and/or feels clammy to the touch  
  • Their body goes limp  
  • Their fingernails or lips have a purple or blue color  
  • They cannot be awakened or are unable to speak  
  • Their heartbeat slows or stops  

All of these symptoms occur because the individual has stopped receiving the correct amount of oxygen. The opioids in pain killers can make you stop breathing if you overdose but it doesn’t always occur quickly. The reason someone’s skin turns a blue/purple color when overdosing is that the breathing has become labored and slow. However, the organs are not getting the correct amount of oxygen they need and over a couple of minutes, their blood pressure will drop. The person will become dizzy and the nervous system becomes affected by the lack of oxygen. This is when the individual will lose consciousness, and they could slip into a coma or die without immediate medical attention. All of this occurs because oxygen is so vital to all of the body’s functions.  

Moreover, these painkiller overdose symptoms are extremely noticeable if the people around the individual are in a decent state of consciousness and understanding. It is dangerous to take drugs together in a group because no one is sober if a problem arises. The hope is that someone is aware of these painkiller overdose symptoms and can save a life by calling 911. We encourage you to not take this risk and call us today.  

Beginning of Overdose Signs and Prevention

There are several painkiller overdose symptoms that an individual can experience and others can be aware of. There are a couple of symptoms one might be able to detect before the breathing signs occur.  

For instance, according to Healthfully, there are some general warning signs of painkiller overdose to be aware of, such as: 

  • The pupils of the eye become extremely small (dilated) 
  • The skin of the individual is sweaty and cold 
  • The person is confused and disoriented 
  • The person might experience hallucinations and react to them 
  • Tremors can occur which is the shaking of legs and arms without control 

If medical help does not intervene soon after these signs, then the breathing of the individual will slow and they will become unconscious. Knowing these signs of painkiller overdose is good but it shouldn’t be the fail-safe of taking drugs. Instead, there are ways to prevent overdose and addiction from ever occurring.

Furthermore, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these are some steps that can help prevent you from misusing your painkillers.  

  • Follow the directions as explained by your doctor or pharmacist. 
  • Be aware that some drugs and alcohol can make your side effects worse.  
  • Don’t stop or change your dose without first talking to your doctor about it.  
  • Don’t use someone else’s prescription.  
  • Never give your medicines to others.  
  • Store your medicines safely.  

Being cautious never hurt anyone, and it is better to be safe than sorry. However, if you have any more questions or concerns about how to properly store your pain medications, don’t hesitate to call us today.

Statistics of Painkiller Overdose

The statistics on painkiller overdose have been rising ever since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s. According to the Policy Impact guide on Prescription Painkiller Overdose from the CDC “Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers. The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of these strong painkillers.”  

In addition, that 300% increase involves 14,800 deaths that were all caused by overdoses on painkillers. The number of emergency hospital visits doubled to 475,000 and more than 12 million people admitted to abusing painkillers for non-medical purposes. And about half of those overdoses involved painkillers and other substances such as other medications, alcohol, or illegal drugs. Usually, men are more likely to die from overdosing on painkillers but statistically, women have been on the rise of overdosing more than men. It is estimated that about 18 women die each day from an overdose on painkillers.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men. Nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2010”.  

It is important to be aware of the statistics and know that you don’t have to be one. Know the signs of a painkiller overdose. Likewise, knowing the facts could save your life, or the life of a loved one.   

Medical Help

Whether it was an accident you became addicted to painkillers or you were experimenting with pills and it got out of hand we are here to help you. There are ways you can pinpoint an addiction. You might be addicted to painkiller if: 

  • You find yourself unable to stop taking the medication 
  • It is all you are thinking about 
  • You try to stop and your body feels awful, almost sick 

If you have experienced any of these feelings there is a chance you are addicted to your painkillers. This is where you need to call us because detoxing on your own isn’t safe. Some people think they can withdraw from the medication and stop their addiction on their own. But unfortunately, what can happen is the individual might last for a while but then experience a relapse. This is another situation where an overdose can occur because the individual might take the number of pills that they were using before, but now that their body has been off of it for a while, it is no longer used to it. Thus, the higher dosage can cause an overdose.  

Don’t let it come to this. Call us first and we can give you the correct tools to help you. It is much safer to seek professional medical help. You do not need to become part of the painkiller overdose statistics. It is never too late to heal and an addiction to opioid painkillers is treatable and beatable. Call us at 405-583-4390 and we can give you the medical help you need in order to live a sober life again.  

Written by Julia Bashaw 


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