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Overdose or Total Withdrawal

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Overdose or Ingesting a Toxic Substance

It is critical to remove the ingested substance as quickly as possible from this person’s system to lessen the chance of permanent injury. Report pertinent information to emergency service personnel. They should be told:

  • What was taken

  • How much was taken

  • What time was it taken

  • The prescribed dosage if the substance was a medication

  • Highly Agitated or Threatening Behavior

Steps to take:
  1. While the person is in an agitated state, keep a safe distance. Refrain from reaching out and attempting to physically touch the person. Wait until the person is calmer to engage with him/her.

  2. If the person remains in a highly agitated state and is a danger to yourself, himself/herself or others, call emergency services or the police.

  3. If possible, work with the person to identify the problem. Is the person responding to hallucinations or delusions? Did someone say or do something that was threatening or was misinterpreted? Is this a reaction to a similar situation in the past that was threatening to the person?

Total Withdrawal:
  1. Understand that the person can be using withdrawal as a protection.

  2. The person should not be left alone.

  3. Reassure the person that he/she is loved and accepted.

  4. Sit quietly with the person in a peaceful, secluded place.

  5. In attempting to have a conversation, use short, simple, direct phrases to which the person can give brief responses. Do not be surprised if the person is unable to respond to what is said. Do not demand a response.

  6. Contact the family and/or caregiver and the appropriate mental health professionals. Use short, simple sentences and a calm, soft delivery.

  7. Calmly discuss what is happening and the consequences that can occur if the situation escalates (such as the person or others being hurt; loss of trust and respect; the possible intervention of emergency services or the police).

  8. If the person makes a threat, find out who, when, how and why there is a problem. Attempt to soothe the anger felt toward the threatened person(s). Notify the threatened person(s), and if warranted, emergency services and/or the police.

  9. Later, follow up on any concerns or suggestions that were made during this conversation.

  10. If a dangerous object (knife, gun, car, toxic substance, etc.) is part of the threat, call the police. If you have the information, contact the person’s physician, family (or caretaker).

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