Opioid intoxication

Definition

Opioid-based drugs include morphine, oxycodone, and synthetic (man-made) opioid narcotics, such as fentanyl. They are prescribed to treat pain after surgery or a dental procedure. Sometimes, they are used to treat severe cough or diarrhea. The illegal drug heroin is also an opioid. When abused, opioids cause a person to feel relaxed and intensely happy (euphoria). In short, the drugs are used to get high.

Opioid intoxication is a condition in which you're not only high from using the drug, but you also have body-wide symptoms that can make you ill and impaired.

Causes

Opioid intoxication may occur when a health care provider prescribes an opioid, but:

In people who use opioids to get high, intoxication may be caused by:

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on how much of the drug is taken.

Symptoms of opioid intoxication can include:

Exams and Tests

Tests that are ordered depend on the provider's concern for additional medical problems. Tests may include:

Treatment

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:

Since the effect of the naloxone is often short, the health care team will monitor the patient for 4 to 6 hours in the emergency department. People with moderate to severe intoxications will likely be admitted to the hospital for 24 to 48 hours.

A mental health evaluation is needed if the person is suicidal.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Many factors determine the short- and long-term outcome after opioid intoxication. Some of these are:

Possible Complications

Health problems that may occur include any of the following:


Review Date: 4/25/2019
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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