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Drug Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

Poisons are everywhere we turn and they can cause both temporary and permanent damages. Poisons come in different forms and get into our systems in different ways.


Have you heard about drug poisoning? as you read further, you will learn all there is to know about keeping your family safe from poisoning.

Why should we discuss poisoning?

From the foods we eat to the air we breathe, poison can easily manipulate its way into the human body. An introduction to poisoning will help you better understand the severity of the topic and why it is vital that you know the different kinds of poisoning, their symptoms, and possible treatments.

Food poisoning is the most common form of poisoning, and this has made the majority of people conclude that there are no other forms of poisoning. Nevertheless, alcohol poisoning is just as common as food poisoning especially with the increase in the number of people who consume alcoholic beverages.

Sometimes we choose not to bother about what we cannot see, but poisoning has made it clear that when it comes to breathing, there is more to the air than meets the eye.

Our oxygen has been contaminated by pollutants like carbon dioxide and every day we breathe in these poisonous gases unintentionally.

With the increase in production and use of engines that emit dangerous gases, we have been made to notice the danger of gas poisoning.

Handling tasks like spraying insecticide, using aftershave, or brushing your teeth with a toothpaste that has “Do not swallow” boldly written in its tube may seem like a cake walk.

But what happens when you mistakingly ingest these hazardous materials? Chemical poisoning is one more form of poisoning to worry about.

And then we have our inquisitive babies who love to explore their environment, and they do that best by putting almost anything they can grab straight into their tiny mouths.


Mother’s often go crazy when they are unsure what their child has swallowed and how dangerous it may be.

Swallowed poisoning isn’t just something that children fall victims of, adults can sometimes get a seat in that poisonous ride, and the end is sometimes a sad tale to tell.

With the above forms of poisoning slightly introduced to you, we can now proceed to discuss drug poisoning.

This article aims to introduce you to drug poisoning; it’s causes, symptoms, and possibly first aid treatments before the emergency unit come to your aid.

Drug poisoning

Drug Poisoning

A person can get drug poisoning by taking the wrong drug combination, expired medications, overdose of prescribed drugs, illegal/illicit drugs, and over the counter drugs.

The effect of the poisoning will be different depending on how the person takes the drug and the kind of drug. Some people may take drugs by inhaling, injecting, or swallowing.

Overdoses of drugs or chemicals that lead to drug poisoning may be intentional or accidental. Drug overdoses happen when a person takes more than the does medically require of an over the counter or prescribed medication.

However, because our body systems are different, some people may more sensitive to certain drugs than others, and this may cause the high end of the drugs therapeutic range to become toxic to them.

People take illicit drugs with the aim to get high, and it is common to hear of an overdose. When a person’s metabolism is unable to detoxify the illicit drugs fast enough, the result is an unintended side effect that is usually dangerous and life-threatening.


Exposure to plants, chemicals, and other toxic substances that can cause harm to the human body is poisoning, and the longer the exposure or, the higher the dose, the more poisonous it is.

Because people respond differently to drug overdoses, the treatment a person gets us usually tailored according to his individual needs, anybody, regardless of age and gender can be a victim of drug overdoses but it is most common in children from crawling age and below five, teenagers trying out illicit d drugs, and people in their mid-thirties.

It was reported that in 2014 alone the United States of America recorded a total of 47,055 cases of death as a result of drug overdoses. 28,000 people who overdosed on opioids, heroin, and prescription opioid also died in 2014. More than half of the recorded deaths were from prescription opioid abuse.

Causes of drug overdoses

A drug overdose can happen through intentional overuse or accidental overuse. Accidental overdoses can happen when a mentally unstable it distracted adult mistakenly swallow a medication left in their grasp of forgets the prescribed dose of a medication.

A child may also ingest a medication carelessly left lying around by an adult. Taking medications in the dark may also cause people to take the wrong medicine, or the wrong does, and that will lead to an accidental overdose.

For purposeful overdose, people usually have a special result in mind, and that usually is either to get high or self-harm.

The risk factors of drug poisoning

When we talk about the risk factors of drug poisoning we refer to the factors that could cause a person to become more likely to unintentionally take the wrong medication or wrong dose of a drug, and also the factors that make people more likely to abuse drugs.

For accidental drug poisoning, the risk factors include:

  • Taking many different medications
  • Age: which is a factor that puts the very young and the elderly at risk
  • Mental illness

Risk factors for intentional drug poisoning

  • Mental illness
  • low income
  • Gender (men are more likely to intentionally overdose)
  • Age
  • Doctor shopping
  • A high daily dosage of medication
  • Mixing alcohol with drugs
  • Injection drug abuse
  • History of overdose
  • Using multiple drugs
  • Use of street drugs
  • Using drugs alone
  • Self-medication

Signs and symptoms of drug poisoning

Medications affect the entire body, usually, in cases of drug abuse, the side effect of the drug become more pronounced. Drug poisoning may be dangerous enough to cause death.

  1. Problems with pulse rate, temperature, blood pressure, respiratory rate can occur and be life-threatening. The values of vital signs can either decrease, increase, or become completely absent.
  2. Skin can be sweaty and cool, hot or dry.
  3. Confusion, sleepiness, and coma are common and may be dangerous if the victim breathes vomit into his or her lungs.
  4. Convulsion may occur
  5. Some drugs can damage specific organs depending on the pill.
  6. Vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain. Blood in bowel movement or vomiting can be life-threatening.
  7. Heart of lung damage may cause chest pain and shortness of breath.

Treatment for drug overdose

Activated charcoal may be used to help bind the drugs together and keep them in the intestine or stomach.

Activated charcoal will help to reduce the amount of poison that gets into the blood and attach it to the victim’s stool. Call for emergency help immediately you notice drug poisoning.


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