Drug Overdoses in Youth

How do drug overdoses happen? 

When a person dies due to a drug overdose the medical examiner or coroner records on the death certificate if the overdose was intentional – purposely self-inflicted (as in cases of suicide) – or unintentional (accidental).

Unintentional drug poisoning deaths include cases where:

  • a drug was taken accidentally
  • too much of a drug was taken accidentally
  • the wrong drug was given or taken in error
  • an accident occurred in the use of a drug(s) in medical and surgical procedures  

Total overdose death numbers also include cases where drugs are given to a person in a criminal act (a homicide, if a death occurs.)   With most drugs, there are more accidental deaths than suicides or homicides.

Some overdoses happen when people leave drug treatment. During treatment, a person goes through a detoxification (“detox”) process---getting the drug out of the body. If a person has gone through detox, and then takes the same amount of drugs they took before, they can overdose because the body is no longer used to the same dose.

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