The Aftermath of an Overdose

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Kristi Whitaker - TBI

Kristi Whitaker, LMSW, CBIS

Written by Kristi Whitaker, LMSW, CBIS

The issue of opiate addiction, such as heroin, is showing up frequently in the media and has even been a topic in the presidential candidate debates. Often you will hear that an untreated drug addiction will end in either death or prison, but another serious outcome that tends to be under-reported is brain injury.

More often brain injuries are thought of as the result of a near-death fall or a motor vehicle accident, but overdosing on drugs and alcohol present a high risk for mild to severe brain injury.

Hypoxic and anoxic brain injuries occur when the brain is deprived of adequate (or all) oxygen, and this can cause seizures, coma, or even brain death.  Overdosing on opiate substances depresses the central nervous system, decreases body temperature, and can lead to respiratory arrest. Within minutes of oxygen deprivation, a brain injury can occur, and the severity of the injury depends on how quickly life-saving measures are provided to the individual. The symptoms following this type of brain injury vary from poor concentration and headaches to falling into a persistent vegetative state (PVS). In some cases, an individual may present with an altered personality that friends and family no longer recognize as the person they once knew.

Immediate medical attention is crucial to an individual actively overdosing and can vastly reduce the negative effects of a brain injury. For those with lasting symptoms, several methods of treatment can help, such as cognitive, speech, occupational, and physical therapies.  Beyond treating the brain injury, it is important to focus on an individual’s addictions and possible underlying mental health issues. Offering treatment to the whole person creates a greater chance of rehabilitating their physical, mental, and emotional health.

If you or your loved one is dealing with the disease of addiction, we can help! Also, if you are interested in more information about the treatment of brain injury, click here.

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