Respond to Overdose

When a person survives an overdose, it’s because someone knew what was happening and how to take action.

If you have friends or family who use drugs, its important that you know what an overdose looks like in case it happens. Once you recognize that someone is overdosing, you can take action by giving naloxone, calling 911, and start rescue breathing.

How to recognize an overdose


Breathing slowly

A person may have very slow, shallow breaths, make gurgling noises, or stop breathing.

Can’t be woken up

They may be awake but unable to talk or may not respond when you try to wake them up.

Turning blue

They could look very pale or have blue fingernails and lips.

How to respond to an overdose


Try to wake the person up
  • Call their name or yell “I’m going to call 911!”
  • If they don’t respond to your voice, rub the middle of their chest with your knuckles.

Call 911 right away if you can’t wake them up
  • Give your exact location as best you can.

  • Say if the person is conscious (awake) or not.

  • Say if the person’s breathing has slowed down or stopped.

Start rescue breathing if the person’s breath is slow or has stopped
  • Put the person on their back.

  • Tilt their chin up to open the airway.

  • Check to see if there is anything in their mouth blocking their airway (like gum or a syringe cap). Remove anything you find.

  • Plug their nose with 1 hand and give 2 even breaths. Blow enough air into their mouth to make their chest rise.

  • Continue giving 1 breath every 5 seconds.

  • Watch this video to see how rescue breathing works.

Give naloxone if you have it

To give nasal naloxone:

  • Take the red cap off the naloxone.

  • Push the end of the capsule firmly to spray half the naloxone into the person’s nose.

  • Repeat with the other half in the second nostril.

  • If the person doesn’t react in 2 to 3 minutes, give a second dose if you have it.

  • Watch this video to see how to give nasal naloxone.

Put the person in recovery position

If you need to leave them for a minute, like to call 911 — put the person on their side with their body supported by a bent knee. This will help keep their airway clear and stop them from choking if they throw up.