Opioid Overdose

Physical and mental symptoms that occur after taking too many opioids, a substance found in certain prescription pain medications and illegal drugs like heroin.
An overdose can be life-threatening and requires immediate emergency care. People who take high doses of opioid painkillers, are middle-aged, have a history of substance abuse, or are taking other sedatives are at highest risk.
Symptoms may include shallow breathing, confusion, lessened alertness, and loss of consciousness.
Opioid overdose is a medical emergency and emergency services should be called immediately. Treatments include medications like naloxone that reverse the effects of opioids. A breathing machine can help if breathing is impaired.


Cluster Number:
Wiki Number: PW143
Diagnosis: Opioid Overdose
US Patients: 110,000 deaths + more with permanent brain damage (2017)
World Patients: 500,000 deaths, world wide
Sex Ratio:
Age Onset:
Brain Area: inadequate oxygen in the brain in the medulla and pons can lead to death or brain damage
Symptoms: Inability to breathe or decreased consciousness can kill.
Medications: Naloxone has reversed more than 25,000 overdoses by 2014.
Therapies: Used as directed, Lohr’s DVD and Download, “Calming My Pain!” avoidusing opioids for post-surgical or other causes of pain.


The world-wide medical research
reports chosen for each diagnosis 

Clicking each title opens the
PubMed article’s summary-abstract.

  • Dynamic rhythmogenic network states drive differential opioid responses in the in-vitro respiratory network
    by Nicholas J Burgraff on October 26, 2021

    Death from opioid overdose is typically caused by opioid-induced respiratory depression (OIRD). A particularly dangerous characteristic of OIRD is its apparent unpredictability. The respiratory consequences of opioids can be surprisingly inconsistent, even within the same individual. Despite significant clinical implications, most studies have focused on average dose-responses rather than individual variation, and there remains little insight into the etiology of this apparent unpredictability....

  • The Right to Pain Relief: Its Origins in End-of-life Care and Extension to Chronic Pain Care
    by Mark D Sullivan on October 26, 2021

    OBJECTIVES: The claim of a right to pain relief was made in recent decades by pain professionals, courts, and patient advocacy groups and likely contributed to increased opioid prescribing, overdose deaths, and addictions, but the origins and nature of this right have not been investigated.

  • Implementation of academic detailing for pharmacists on opioid use disorder and harm reduction
    by Bethany A DiPaula on October 25, 2021

    CONCLUSION: Pharmacists routinely care for patients at risk for OD and diagnosed with OUD. Academic detailing is a well-received strategy to disseminate education and materials, while gathering information about pharmacist needs and barriers. However, there remains room for expansion of services and opportunities for improved care. Further efforts should incorporate ongoing training and access to materials with visual cues, as well as referral and cost savings information.

  • Moving Away From a "One Size Fits All" Model: Ensuring Opioid Stewardship Includes People Who Use Drugs
    by Sarah Poteryko on October 25, 2021

    The opioid-driven overdose crisis has had devastating effects across North America, resulting from a complex interplay between individual, social-structural, and environmental factors. Changing approaches to pain management, increased heroin use, and potent synthetic opioids infiltrating the drug supply are compounded by both lack of access to opioid use disorder treatment and surrounding stigma. Inappropriate opioid prescribing practices in healthcare settings have played a central role, and in...