How to Recognize and Respond to an Alcohol or Other Drug Overdose

An overdose happens when the body is overwhelmed by too much of a substance or a combination of substances. It is possible to overdose on alcohol, other drugs and prescription medications. An overdose can result in serious health effects and death.

Signs of Alcohol or Drug Overdose

Signs of an overdose vary depending on the type of substance used and whether a person mixed substances. However, common signs include:

  • Person is unresponsive and cannot be wakened
  • Skin is cool and sweaty (clammy) or hot and dry
  • Blue or purple lips or nails
  • Slow, irregular or shallow breathing (normal respiration is 12-20 breaths/minute)
  • Slow, erratic or undetectable pulse
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Seizure

What to Do if You Think Someone is Overdosing

It may be hard to tell whether a person is experiencing an overdose. If you aren’t sure, treat it like an overdose—you could save a life.

  • Call 911 (or 9-911 from on-campus)
  • Try to keep the person awake
  • Lay the person on their side to prevent choking in case of vomiting
  • Stay with the person until emergency assistance arrives
  • Communicate what you know about what type of drug(s), when and how much the person took to officials

Don’t Let Fear of Getting in Trouble Prevent You from Getting Help

Students who actively seek assistance from police or UWM staff for someone (including self) who is overly intoxicated/impaired due to alcohol or other drugs and cooperate with police and UWM staff will not face university discipline or UWM Police citations for underage alcohol and/or other drug use.
Remember to CALL, STAY and COOPERATE.