A heroin overdose is usually caused when a user takes too much of the drug or it is mixed with something stronger like fentanyl. This high dose suppresses the heart rate and breathing to the point that a person cannot survive unless given Naloxone, or he or she receives medical treatment to overcome the negative side effects.
More than 100,000 people died in the United States from April 2020 to April 2021 according to the CDC, which is a 28% increase over the previous year.
Those numbers account for overdose deaths from all drugs, although opioids and heroin accounted for nearly 75% of them. Fentanyl had the highest annual increase of all drugs, and many times it was mixed in with heroin.
Heroin overdose is quite common and there are a number of reasons for that.
Users quickly build a tolerance so they need to use more of the drug. At the same time, they also lose their tolerance almost as quickly. If a user builds up to taking a certain dose but stops using for a period of time, when they start using again at the previous dose, it will usually be too much and they overdose.
This can happen when a person is incarcerated for a period of time and begins using again when they get out of jail. Others might stop using altogether and then relapse. When he or she goes back to the same dose they were taking before they quit, it will be too much and lead to an overdose.
When heroin is mixed with depressant drugs such as alcohol, benzos, or other sedatives, it amplifies the effects of the suppressed breathing and heart rate and leads to an overdose.
In recent years, fentanyl has been mixed with heroin to supercharge it and make it more attractive for both dealers and users. Unfortunately, the dealers and the users don’t always know the heroin is mixed with fentanyl, so the dose is stronger than expected, which causes an overdose.
For a typical heroin overdose, medical responders can usually revive a patient successfully with a dose of Naloxone (Narcan) if they administer it soon after the patient stops breathing. But this often fails when fentanyl is involved.
Even though fentanyl is now being mixed in many drugs on the street, heroin has always been a favorite target and it seriously increases the chances of a fatal overdose.
This has motivated many people to seek heroin addiction treatment.