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Drug Overdose: Exams, Tests, and Treatments

In the third part of our Drug Overdose Blog Series we will discuss Exams, Tests and then Drug Overdose Treatments. If you’ve suspected someone of overdosing, or you think you might have, and you have sought medical attention then a history and physical examination will take place in the hospital emergency room. A batter of laboratory test will be taken, and in some cases, depending on how severe and the type of overdose, the stomach might be pumped.

An important source of information is family and friends, as they can help in offering the physician the name(s) and amounts taken of the drugs, and when it occurred. During the testing specific drug levels in the blood will be measured, depending on the drug taken and the reason for the overdose.

What Type of Drug Overdose Treatment Will Occur?

Drug Overdose Treatment depends on what drugs have been taken, and that information is usually offered by the addict, family and/or friends. Another important bit of information family and friends can offer is if there is another underlying medical problem. As mentioned above, the stomach may be “pumped” or washed out by gastric lavage. The purposed of this is to mechanically remove unabsorbed drugs from the stomach.

Other drug overdose treatments are as follows.

  • Activated charcoal: This is given to help bind drugs and keep them in the stomach and intestines. The activated charcoal will help reduce the amount of drugs absorbed into the blood. Eventually, the drugs bound to the charcoal are then passed through the patient’s stool. Often times, a cathartic is given with the charcoal in order to expedite the stool from the patient’s bowels. 
  • In some cases the person has become agitated and even violent due to the overdose, or for other reasons. They are then physically restrained and often sedated in the emergency room. If they overdose is not toxic in the sense of ending the person’s life, then they will be kept restrained until the effects of the drugs wear off. If the drugs just being in the person’s body will do more harm, then the physician will intubate, have a tube placed in the airway, to keep the person breathing during the detoxification stage.

Often times, there are other medications that be prescribed that will counter the effects of the other drugs. They work like an antidote to reverse the effects of what was taken or to prevent even more harm from the drug that was initially taken.