Module 6: how drugs work: learner's workbook

9.2 Management of overdose

Page last updated: 2004

Many media reports focus on fatal overdoses. However it is important to note that not all overdoses are fatal or life-threatening. Nevertheless you should always seek medical advice if you suspect an overdose has occurred. You should also know your agency's policy regarding the management of overdose and/or critical situations.

Overdose types

Overdose can be divided into two main types: potentially life-threatening and non-life threatening.

Potentially life-threatening overdose

When a young person's life seems in danger as a result of an overdose (e.g. when the person has collapsed or stopped breathing) the following steps are recommended:
  • call an ambulance
  • ensure the safety of yourself and others in your care or supervision
  • administer first aid
  • take young person to the emergency department of the nearest Medical Centre
  • thoroughly document the incident and your involvement.

Non life-threatening

If you are experienced in dealing with overdose management and feel confident that the overdose is not life-threatening, the following strategies are recommended:
  • make contact with a health professional and seek a second opinion
  • observe young person - don't let them go home until they are OK
  • if young person goes home, try to have a someone stay with them
  • thoroughly document the incident and your involvement.
Remember that while you are working with young people, you will always be subject to legal obligations that relate to young people and their drug use while they are in your care or supervision.