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When Medication Overdoses Harm or Kill

Updated on August 29, 2011

When Treatment Backfires

it is difficult to decide what course of action to pursue when one has severe allergies and the medication administered to staunch them causes a worse set of symptoms than do the allergies themselves. Surviving an overdose of any medication can by quite frightening to a patient, staff, and family members.

Allergy patients need to keep their physicians aprised of their symptoms, and their body's good and bad reactions to the anti-allergens. At the very first signs of an overdose reaction, the patient must get medical help to counteract it. After stabilizing, it seems to me that the patient should work with the physicians in the case to find out the next best move in treatment. Patients would want to know how the overdose occurred, why, and what measures were put into place to prevent its happening again. Is another anti-allergen is order now? These are questions I would ask.

Self Medication

Patients may, indeed, be afraid to go back into the same treatment regimen with the same medications previously given after an overdose of that very substance occurs and is survived. I think it is natural to fear the medication, but that if a future overdose can be prevented, then all is well. However, I also think that an overdose in certain cases may change the human body's immune responses so that the medication in "normal" - or perhaps any - amount will no longer work. patients need to talk with their doctors about this.

If you are afraid of your medication, discuss this with your doctor. If he/she belittles your fear, then it is likely time to switch doctors. In addition, many hospitals have a healthcare hotline staffed by registered nurses that can help answer heath questions and direct you to additional help if you need it.

Self medication is another matter. When people become frightened of their medications or afraid that the healthcare system is not delivering treatment that works, they may begin to experiment on their own. This experimentation can lead to dangerous side effects and death.


Accidental Death

An acquaintance attends a pain and stress support group monthly and in this group are people that suffer chronic pain of several types and many have allergies and other aggravating conditions. Unfortunately, one gentleman in this group experienced such severe pain that he accidentally overdosed on narcotic medications and died. It was a shock to the group and his girlfriend, but he may have come to a point that he would do anything to stop the pain, or he forgot he took narcotics and took more.

Sometimes people with chronic pain or allergies that will not subside feel alone, epecially if these people "look" healthy in an overall way. It is too easy to lose these people to overdose. For instance, another acquaintance received quinine overseas for a condition and was allergic, with massive itching. He drank a bottle of whiskey and went to skeep, but he might have died from the amount of alcohol he consumed alone.

Another example is the military veteran with chronic pain whose medications did not work. One day, he did not take medications, but drank a 6 pack of beer before having a friend drive him to a doctor's appointment. I was in that office and the man looked, sounded, and acted pain-free, but this is dangerous. A patient can kill himself accidentally with alcohol, or an alcohol- pain medication combination.

Contemplating Absence

Finally, I am on my way today to help plan a funeral for a good friend and colleague that suffered chronic pain without much relief from surgeries, medications, and other treatment from his healthcare system. This person did not take medications often, wanting to avoid the addictions some of his friends had suffered. He would take a few at once, every week or so.

He was a Vietnam Veteran that donated many hours to working with at-risk children and youth as well as victims of domestic violence. Having been seperated from siblings by all their adoptions in childhood, he reconnected with his sister in my state and enjoyed her family and his nieces and nephews for the last years of his life. He also was close to his son's family and his grandchildren. He was a musician that had opened for Question Mark and the Mysterians and kept contact with them, and a mentor for other musicians that included prize-winning Elvis impersonators, of which he was one.

It is strange that he died a day or so after the anniversary of Elvis's death.

Bob was angry with his healthcare system and did not trust it. Many people today are of this same mind. His wife and family could not force him to the doctor's office, of course. We think he took medication, forgot he had done so, and took an additional amount.

I dedicate this article to the memory of Robert A. Franklin, veteran, musician, martial artist, and friend, with the hope that our healthcare system and pain management treatment improve in the future.

EXACTLY. | Source


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Hello, hello - Thank you; your words help much.

      Support Med - Thanks for your comments.

      Everyone - I'm still a bit shocked, but your support helps me more than I can describe. My friend is no longer in pain, I believe.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      I am very sorry to read about your dear friend. May he RIP. I am very , very wary about medicine, especially these days. Thank you for your wonderful hub.

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Such a very important hub. Condolences to you and family of your friend. An uncle of mine passed away a few months ago from overdosing trying to overcome pain - he had already taken the medication, but forgot that he took it, by the time time everyone realized what had happened, although he was taken to emergency - the medication had done irreversible harm. He was a great uncle - always a smile and kind word. Too many in the health system just throw out the pills for every little symptom instead of alternatives. There are a few doctors thought who no longer prescribe controlled substances. Whether controlled or not, care should be taken with all medications. voted/rated.

    • whoisbid profile image


      7 years ago

      Sorry about your friend. Please keep up the good work

    • breakfastpop profile image


      7 years ago

      I am so sorry to hear about your friend. Over dosing is a real problem today. Medicines are handed out so readily and taken to easily. Up and useful.

    • authorfriendly profile image


      7 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Medication overdoses are a problem, espcially when combined with a little alcohol. Many of my psychotherapy clients who have been on medication have been surprised how little they learned from the percscribing physicians about how medications interact with one another and with alcohol.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I am so sorry to hear about your friend. I have found that our health system can be woefully lacking in compassion for the person in pain. They need to step up and help make the physical pain that they can't see more tolorable. That said, I try to take as little medication as I can. I want to know what is it, why am I taking it, and what the side effects are. Up and awesome.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very sorry to hear about your friend Patty, but this type of thing happens to often . Hopefully the healthcare system will get better and gain peoples trust back.Thanks for sharing this information to make people more aware that this type of self medication can lead to accidental overdose.

      Useful and vote up !!!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Condolences to Robert, his friends and family. I understand very well what a fine line you walk when you live with chronic pain as I have that problem. I am almost paranoid about getting too dependent on pain medication and take minimal amounts but use stretches, meditation, ice and heat depending on the location of the pain. I know I won't be pain free but taking the edge off makes it tolerable.

      I think this hub if very useful for people like me who need to be aware of the dangers of drugs and mixing them with alcohol. It is so important not to take more than the prescribed dosage of any medication. Excellent hub.

    • GlstngRosePetals profile image


      7 years ago from Wouldn't You Like To Know

      I lost a loved one from an accidental overdose. It was from a mixture of two medications that were prescribed to him from his doctor. It's a shame to lose someone at the age of only 16. Thankyou for sharing this article with everyone. It's such an eye opener.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      So sorry to hear about your friend. I hope that the funeral arrangements go smoothly.

    • brandonhart100 profile image


      7 years ago from Inside Your Computer

      I think it's important that you always know your dosage ahead of time. My sister-in-law was given 10 times the dosage for her birth control, couldn't get pregnant for years, and then had a child with a few medical issues. We've always thought that those issues stemmed from the original overdose.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      I have been in a situation during a very traumatic period when I was given the wrong meds. It was devastating to say the least. Luckily I was hospitalized and got help.

      I am deeply sorry for those families who are left behind to bear the consequences of such actions. Sometimes the fear of taking the meds is founded on the fact that many people suffer the same thing as I did. Sometimes the meds make you worse before it actually help. In many cases it causes more complications in the short and long run.

      Taking more than the prescribed amount is never a good idea neither is experimenting with other drugs, both can definitely make thing worse.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      I have always believed that God will get the right medecines to me for the right problem. I have a great doctor and as long as I reveal the whole truth to him he knows exactly what is needed.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Good thinking, Flora! Thanks for your comment.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      7 years ago

      I've always hada healthy mistrust, so to speak, of drugs of any kind. I always ask for the lowest dosage possible that will still work, and try to get pill form instead of gel caos as they can be spliced in half if needed to get the proper dosage, while gel caps can't.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks very much. It was a shock to me and still is.

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 

      7 years ago from New York

      My condolences to Robert'a family. The tragedy that has killed more people than in vietnam and Korea together. Thanks Pat for the story.



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