Drugs & Alcohol


The Poison Center can help in the assessment of overdoses. We are here 24/7 to take your calls.

  • Alcohol

    Alcoholic beverages can be unsafe when consumed in excess, and is especially dangerous when taken in combination with other drugs or medications.

    Prescription medications that can cause severe side effects in combination with alcohol include medicines for anxiety, sleep and pain. Street drugs - including methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin - can also cause extreme side effects, even death, when used with alcohol.

    Signs of alcohol poisoning or overdose:

    • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
    • Irregular breathing
    • Vomiting
    • Seizures
    • Passing out and can't be awakened
    • Blue-tinged or pale skin
    • Low body temperature

    The type of alcohol that is found in alcoholic beverages, known as ethanol, can also be found in some household and hygiene products. Some products that can contain ethanol are mouthwash, hand sanitizer, facial toner, and perfume.

  • Antidepressants

    Antidepressants, when used at their prescribed dose, can be safe and effective to combat mood disorders. However, when these drugs are taken above the prescribed dose or by someone for whom they were not prescribed, they can become dangerous. There are many types of antidepressants. The signs and symptoms of an overdose will be different depending on drug was taken.

    Symptoms of overdose from a tri-cyclic antidepressant (amitriptyline, nortriptyline or desipramine):

    • Dilated pupils
    • High body temperature
    • Confusion
    • Irregular or rapid heart rate
    • High blood pressure
    • Seizures

  • Fentanyl

    Fentanyl is a very powerful painkiller. It typically comes as a prescription transdermal patch, but can also be found in some illegally manufactured drugs on the street. If used or abused by someone to whom it is not prescribed, Fentanyl can be extremely dangerous. The main concern with its use is that the person would stop breathing properly, which can be fatal.

    Symptoms of an overdose include:

    • Pinpoint pupils
    • Very slow breathing
    • Coma

  • Marijuana

    The effects of marijuana may last two to four hours after it is inhaled or smoked. When marijuana is eaten, the effects can last four to ten hours depending on its strength and plant strain.

    Effects of marijuana may include:

    • Slower reactions times
    • Relaxed feeling
    • Altered perceptions of time and distance
    • Trouble thinking, learning, or remembering
    • Anxiety, panic, or paranoia
    • Faster heart rate
    • Nausea (despite the fact that cannabis can treat the symptoms of nausea) Increased blood pressure
    • Increased appetite
    • Psychosis

    Edible Marijuana Products

    THC can affect people differently. Often people go to the emergency room because they consume more marijuana edibles than required or they mistake a marijuana product for regular food. The effects from edibles may take one to four hours to reach peak effect after ingesting. Use caution when using marijuana products, as they are likely to impair your ability to drive.

    Symptoms of using too much marijuana may include:

    • Severe nausea or vomiting
    • Fast heart rate
    • Extreme confusion or anxiety
    • Panic and paranoia
    • Hallucinations and delusions

    Children may mistake "edible" marijuana (like gummy bears, cookies) for regular food. Small children are at higher risk for overdose based on their weight. Because edible products often have very high amounts of marijuana, the symptoms are more severe in a small child. Many children who consume marijuana edibles require hospital admission due to the severity of their symptoms. Store all products and medications up and away from children.

  • Opioids

    Opioids are a class of drugs commonly used to relieve pain. Less often, they can be used to help a cough or diarrhea. Common examples are oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Norco, Lortab, Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), morphine (MSContin), codeine (Tylenol #3), and many more.

    These drugs are often prescribed after a surgery or injury to patients who may or may not have ever taken opioids before. They also are prescribed to patients who take them for long-term management of pain caused by various medical conditions. Opioids or painkillers affect certain areas of the brain that regulate breathing patterns. Combing pain medications with alcohol and other medications increases your risk of an overdose.

    Symptoms of an overdose may include:

    • Slow, shallow or absent breathing
    • Pinpoint pupils
    • Snore-like gurgling or choking sounds
    • Bluish, greyish or ashen skin tones

    Naloxone is a medication used to reverse an overdose from pain medications or opioids. It is available at locations across the state and easy to give in the case of an overdose.

    For more information about overdoses, prevention and Naloxone go to TakeAsPrescribed.org

    Share, print or download our fact sheets on Opioids and Naloxone:

    Opioids

    Naloxone

  • Sedatives

    Sedatives are a type of drug used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. These drugs can be especially dangerous if taken over the prescribed dose or with alcohol.

    Symptoms of an overdose:

    • Slow and labored breathing
    • Pinpoint pupils
    • Dizziness and unsteadiness
    • Shock
    • Slurred Speech
    • Coma

    Some commonly prescribed sedatives for anxiety are Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium. Muscle relaxers, like Flexeril, Soma, and Robaxin, are also considered sedatives. Sleep agents, including Ambien and Lunesta, are also sedatives. These medications should be kept secured and away from children at all times.