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What is an overdose?

The word overdose usually means taking too much of a drug or medication, such as a pain killer, cough medicine, antidepressant, alcohol or street drugs. It can also refer to taking too much of a vitamin or mineral. An overdose can be voluntary or accidental. It happens when so much of the substance enters your system that your body cannot get rid of it quickly enough. Wastes are usually eliminated through the blood, liver, kidneys and other systems and organs. But when an overdose occurs, the body's usual efforts are no longer enough. Symptoms depend on the type of substance and how much was taken, but may include changes in a person's heart and breathing rate, kidney failure, nervous system problems, joint pain, headaches, fatigue or sleepiness, confusion, general illness and unconsciousness. Because their bodies and systems are smaller, children can overdose on a much smaller amount of medication or substance than an adult. Needless to say, an overdose is a medical emergency. In the US, you should call 911, or 800-222-1222 for a local poison control center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.