Heroin Overdose

Heroin is a dangerous drug. Use this guide to learn about heroin overdose and the treatment options available.
Heroin Overdose

Heroin Overdose

Heroin is a dangerous drug. Use this guide to learn about heroin overdose and the treatment options available.

Table of Contents

Understanding Heroin Overdose

Heroin overdose, when heroin use creates a critically dangerous state in the body, is possibly the most frightening and worrisome outcome of heroin abuse. Anyone suffering from heroin use disorder is at risk of experiencing an overdose on heroin, especially with the rising threat of fentanyl contamination spreading throughout the United States. The only way to truly prevent an overdose on heroin is to enter treatment and break free from substance use for good.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin belongs to a drug category called central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Other drugs in this category include opioids, alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. In the case of heroin, the central nervous system is affected in the following ways:

  • Slowed respiration
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Reduced alertness
These three simple effects, taken to extremes, are what make heroin overdose so dangerous.

What Causes Heroin Overdose?

People can overdose on heroin when they take too high of a dose, knowingly or unknowingly. During a heroin overdose, the effects of the drug overpower the body’s natural and automatic life-preserving functions, which can result in death.
Heroin is an illicit drug often contaminated with other substances, so there is no clear answer for how much heroin it takes to overdose. The purity, strength, and chemical makeup of street heroin varies wildly, and even what seems like a “normal” dose may lead to overdose.

Heroin Overdose Statistics

The most recent data on heroin overdose paints a troubling picture. In 2020, 13,165 people died from heroin overdose. While this number dropped from 15,469 in 2016, it is far above the rates in previous decades.1
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the primary driver of the increase in heroin overdose is fentanyl contamination. Fentanyl is an opioid much more powerful than heroin, so it is often cut into heroin to boost its potency. Yet, many people are unaware that heroin can contain this powerful chemical, increasing the risk of an overdose.

Ohio Heroin Overdose Statistics

The most recent Ohio heroin overdose data shows that 527 people died from heroin overdose in 2019. Ohio and its neighboring states have some of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country, showing the need for quality heroin addiction treatment services in the area.2

Heroin Overdose Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of heroin overdose follow directly from the three effects listed above. When the body is introduced to a significant amount of heroin, breathing can entirely stop, causing the person to lose consciousness, and ultimately, their heart can stop beating.

Indications of Overdose

Identifying the signs of heroin overdose may give people enough time to call for help, provide heroin overdose treatment, and save somebody’s life. Heroin overdose symptoms include:
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Blue lips or fingers
  • Skin that feels clammy or cold
  • Breathing that is extremely slow, shallow, or has completely stopped
  • Choking or gurgling noise from the throat
  • In rare cases, heroin overdose seizures may occur
Noticing these signs is an essential first step, but you must follow up with action if you see them.

Heroin Overdose Rescue Procedures

Surveys indicate that 64% to 97% of people who misuse opioids reported witnessing at least one overdose. If you see somebody showing any of the signs above, the first and most important thing is to call 911 immediately. Emergency medical professionals can provide heroin overdose treatment, and a 911 dispatcher can talk you through what you can do to save their life.3


Naloxone, also known under the brand name Narcan, is a heroin overdose medication that can quickly reverse the effects of opioids. It comes in two primary forms: a nasal spray and an injection. Administering naloxone while someone is overdosing on heroin can reverse deadly effects and save their life.
One study found that bystanders were present in more than one in three opioid overdose situations, proving the importance of learning proper heroin overdose procedures. If you or someone you know is at an increased risk for heroin or opioid overdose, having naloxone readily available can help prevent the severe side effects of an overdose.4

Naloxone Administration

Naloxone is a drug for heroin overdose that is simple to use. With the nasal spray, simply remove the device from the package and spray the medication into the nostrils of the person overdosing. If they do not respond immediately, open a new package and deliver another dose. Repeat this process until you are out of naloxone or emergency personnel arrive.
If your naloxone comes in the form of a needle and bottle, remove the cap from the needle and fill it with the medication. Next, inject the medication into the upper arm or thigh, going through clothing if you have to. As with the nasal spray, repeat this process if the person remains unresponsive until you are out of medication or emergency personnel arrive.

CPR and Breathing Support

As a last resort, you can attempt CPR to sustain a person’s life until paramedics come. Push hard onto the person’s chest, roughly twice every second. Tilt their head back to clear their airway and provide mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing.
Treatment for Heroin Overdose

Treatment for Heroin Overdose and Abuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin abuse or survived a heroin overdose, the time to seek treatment is now. Heroin addiction is progressive, meaning it gets worse over time without professional intervention. Starting heroin addiction treatment can teach you how to overcome substance use disorder once and for all.

Heroin Treatment Options

There are several options for overcoming heroin addiction, including:
  • Heroin detox centers offer relief from early withdrawal symptoms
  • Medication management can provide long-term reductions in drug cravings
  • Therapy can uncover the root cause of addiction and teach valuable coping skills
  • Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and SMART Recovery, emphasize peer support and help participants form specific plans to overcome heroin addiction

Treatment centers like Arrow Passage Recovery combine all of these programs under one roof, allowing people from all walks of life to get the best evidence-based treatment for substance use disorder. We know how hard it can be to stop on your own, which is why we provide caring and compassionate support throughout the treatment process.

Contact Arrow Passage Recovery Today

We aim to help you succeed and live a healthy, substance-free life. Don’t delay treatment any longer; call our team at 1 (855) 712-9962 and start your road to recovery at Arrow Passage Recovery.

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