alcohol abuse1

Beware of alcohol overdose

Mthandazo Ndlovu

The international Overdose Awareness day started in Melbourne, Australia in the year 2001 and has since been recognised worldwide.

Overdose is having more of a drug or a combination of drugs than your body can cope with and the signs and symptoms of an overdose differ with the type of drug used. It is important to know that some drugs cannot be mixed; whether illegal or medicinal.

Depressant drugs are those that slow vital activities in the body including breathing and heart rate. These include the opioid group of drugs, benzodiazepines and alcohol. They all slow the central nervous system to produce a calming effect.

However, when taken in excessive amounts or in combination, they depress normal functions such as breathing and heart rate until breathing and the heart eventually stop resulting in death.

Generally, people do not think of alcohol overdose; it being a depressant it is possible to overdose on it. If you drink a large amount of alcohol quickly the level of alcohol in your blood system can be become dangerously high and this can stop your body from working properly, in extreme cases alcohol poisoning can stop your heartA� and breathing and even cause one to choke in their vomit and die.

Stimulants like amphetamines can also be overdosed increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, seizure or drug induced psychotic episodes.

All drug misuse can lead to brain injury. Hypoxic brain injury, which is caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, an under-reported consequence of overdose. This can lead to a coma, seizures and death.

The long term effects of hypoxia depends on how long the brain is without an adequate supply of oxygen. The longer the person is not breathing the more damage is being done to their brain. A brain injury can result in mild to severe impairment of the following:

- movement balance and co-ordination

- senses such as hearing and vision

-spoken and written communication

- thinking concentration and memory

- in severe cases brain injuries from overdose can leave one in a vegetative state

If one uses a drug daily they develop a tolerance and that means they need more of the drug to get the same effect, and as the effects and concentration of the drug in onea��s system are pre-empted by the drugs half-life , some drugs have a long half-life.

This means that the person who has taken in the drug will still be having enough in their system and the next dose that they ignorantly take will be an overdose.

For instance the half-life of Diazepam is about 24 hours which means by the time you take the next similar dose you still have half the dose you took yesterday in your system and if you were to use an opioid like morphine you would have increased the risk of overdose.

Mthandazo Ndlovu is a drug prevention and rehabilitation specialist. For more information and help call 00263772399734 or email Join the Rechabites in creating drug-free, healthy productive communities