Opioid-based drugs include morphine, oxycodone, and synthetic (man-made) opioid narcotics, such as fentanyl. They are prescribed to treat pain after surgery or a dental procedure. Sometimes, they are used to treat severe cough or diarrhea. The illegal drug heroin is also an opioid. When abused, opioids cause a person to feel relaxed and intensely happy (euphoria). In short, the drugs are used to get high.
Opioid intoxication is a condition in which you're not only high from using the drug, but you also have body-wide symptoms that can make you ill and impaired.
Intoxication - opioids; Opioid abuse - intoxication; Opioid use - intoxication
Opioid intoxication may occur when a health care provider prescribes an opioid, but:
In people who use opioids to get high, intoxication may be caused by:
Symptoms depend on how much of the drug is taken.
Symptoms of opioid intoxication can include:
Tests that are ordered depend on the provider's concern for additional medical problems. Tests may include:
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:
Since the effect of the naloxone is often short, the health care team will monitor the patient for 4 to 6 hours in the emergency department. People with moderate to severe intoxications will likely be admitted to the hospital for 24 to 48 hours.
A mental health evaluation is needed if the person is suicidal.
Many factors determine the short- and long-term outcome after opioid intoxication. Some of these are:
Health problems that may occur include any of the following:
Aronson JK. Opioid receptor agonists. In: Aronson JK, ed. Meyler's Side Effects of Drugs. 16th ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier; 2016:348-380.
National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Opioids. www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids. Accessed July 29, 2021.
National Institute on Drug Abuse website. What are the medical complications of chronic heroin use? www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-medical-complications-chronic-heroin-use. Updated June 2021. Accessed July 29, 2021.
Nikolaides JK, Thompson TM. Opioids. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 156.
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.