In a Nutshell: Recognizing the signs of an opioid overdose

published on October 1, 2021 by Jessica Werb in Beyond: UBC

Being able to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and knowing how to act can save a life.

Cheyenne Johnson, Executive Director of the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and an adjunct professor in the UBC School of Nursing, explains how to spot the symptoms.

“In general, in an opioid overdose, people will be non-responsive, unconscious or barely conscious,” Johnson says. “They’re difficult to rouse.”

This can, at first glance, resemble alcohol intoxication or other medical emergencies, but there are critical signs to look for. Opioids, such as fentanyl, occupy receptors in the brain stem that control the respiratory function, and at high doses will affect breathing…

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