An opioid overdose can happen if a person has overloaded their body with medications or illicit drugs, or a combination of opioids and other medications, drugs, or alcohol. Every day about 10 Pennsylvanians die from opioid overdose. While there are substantial efforts to address opioid addiction, it is important to understand the risk factors for opioid overdoses, and who is at the highest risk of overdosing, so you can potentially help save a life.
Most opioid overdoses are accidental and can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. However, there are certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of experiencing an opioid overdose.
People who are most likely to overdose on opioids are those with a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders are when people become dependent on alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs that may result in mental, physical, and behavioral problems at home, work, or school.
Roughly one in 100 overdoses is fatal among opioid-dependent people. Within their lifetimes, almost half will personally experience one nonfatal overdose, and about two-thirds will witness someone else overdose.
The people who are at highest risk of opioid overdose are those who:
The people at highest risk of witnessing an opioid overdose are:
In the event you may witness an opioid overdose, there are ways you can help. It's important to first know and identify symptoms of an opioid overdose. The most common signs are:
View a full list of opioid overdose symptoms.
If you suspect someone has overdosed:
Note that most states have enacted Good Samaritan laws, which offers protection for those who report an overdose in good faith, even if illegal activity is involved. These laws encourage members of the community, family members, and friends to call 911 if they witness an overdose.
Knowing risk factors of opioid overdoses and who is at the highest risk of experiencing an overdose can help save a life. In the event of an overdose, minutes matter. The more you know about overdose situations, the more confidence you will have to intervene during an emergency, and potentially save a life.
If you are someone you know is suffering from a substance abuse disorder, please call the Get Help Now Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for more information about treatment resources.
To learn more about UPMC's programs, contact the UPMC Center for Opioid Recovery or UPMC Addiction Medicine Services.