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Blog Post | September 19, 2018

What to Do If You Witness an Overdose

The opioid epidemic is a national health crisis, and it’s why we all need to know what to do if we witness an overdose.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams talks to Mary Winnefeld and Sandy Winnefeld after a US Chamber of Commerce forum on combating the opioid epidemic.


As heroin and prescription opioid use increased over the past decade, so did prescription opioid and heroin-related overdose deaths.  Last year, nearly 72,000 Americans lost their lives to a drug overdose. The onset of the coronavirus has exponentially increased the number of fatal and nonfatal overdoses.

That’s why we encourage other to learn how to administer naloxone, the opioid antidote, in case someone has an overdose.

Symptoms and Indications of an Overdose:

  • Respiratory depression: slow and shallow breathing or cessation of breathing
  • Making snoring or gurgling sounds
  • Blue or gray skin color
  • Dark lips and fingernails
  • Unable to talk
  • Disorientation
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Decreased level of consciousness, can’t be woken up
  • No response to stimuli
  • Drug paraphernalia in the vicinity
  • Note: If you can’t get them to respond, don’t assume they are asleep. Not all overdoses happen quickly and sometimes it can take hours for someone to die. Taking action in those hours means you could save a life.

What to Do:

  • This is a medical emergency: Call 911 for a first responder immediately
  • Try to get the person to respond
  • Administer CPR if you are qualified
  • Rub knuckles on the breast bone
  • If they respond, keep them awake and breathing
  • If skin is blue, perform mouth to mouth rescue breathing
  • Stay with the person.  If you must leave, place the person in a recovery position (place the person on their left side).
  • Look around the victim to see if they are carrying NARCAN (Naloxone), or have it in the vicinity, or if anyone in the area has it . . . and administer it!

What Not to Do:

  • Don’t put the person in a cold bath.
  • Do no inject them with salt water or stimulant drugs (methamphetamine).
  • Don’t try to have them walk it off or sleep it off.
  • Do not induce vomiting.