There’s a common myth that someone will get just a gastric suction procedure and be fine immediately after an overdose. If only overdoses were so simple to treat, we wouldn’t lose over 60,000 Americans every year to a drug overdose. So, do you get your stomach pumped for overdose or not? Let’s talk about what happens when someone enters an ER with an overdose and the resources available to help them.
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Getting Your Stomach Pumped After Overdose on Pills
First of all, a stomach pump or gastric suction is a standard procedure that empties y the contents of your stomach quickly during an emergency. Other names for this procedure include gastric lavage and nasogastric tube suction.
Most of the time, this procedure helps when someone swallows poison or overdoses on pills. However, it all depends on how long someone waits to get to the emergency room. Once the substance works its way further into the digestive system, a stomach pump might not do much to remove the poison or substances.
Even with medicine to numb your throat, a gastric suction procedure is very uncomfortable. A tube went into the mouth or nose and threaded down to the stomach through your esophagus. Then, they’ll apply suction to remove all of your stomach contents. However, the procedure does come with some serious risks, including aspiration pneumonia, which happens when your stomach contents enter your lungs or airways.
The same procedure happens for an overdose stomach pump.
Does It Hurt?
The level of pain will vary from person to person. More than feeling pain, patients experience an intense need to gag or start retching. Usually, people’s eyes get watery, and the procedure might feel overall irritating. After the procedure, you’ll feel an intense cooling feeling and some relief.
As with any procedure, there are some risk factors for getting your stomach pumped. If you vomit during the procedure, you run the risk of breathing what’s in your stomach into your lungs. There’s also a risk of tearing your throat, especially if the substance ingested harmed the throat. And, there is some risk that the tube will go into your trachea or windpipe rather than the esophagus and then stomach.
What’s the Recovery Time?
If getting gastric lavage is the immediate response to an overdose, you might spend the night in the hospital for observation. You might also receive a psychiatric evaluation, depending on why you took the substance. However, the length of recovery will depend on what you’ve ingested. If it was alcohol, an overnight stay might be more than enough. It depends on the time it takes for the drug to leave your system if it was drugs.
What Really Happens When You Overdose
When someone overdoses, they’re not likely to get their stomach pumped unless it’s an accidental overdose. Most likely, someone who overdoses is an active addict that uses various substances. Getting your stomach pumped might not do much to help your condition since the odds are the substance is already in your bloodstream.
It’s important to note that no two overdoses are alike. Those with a severe overdose episode need Narcan (naloxone), a lifesaving injectable medication that literally brings someone back from the brink. Unfortunately, most people go home at this point.
However, some studies point out that using evidence-based medications for overdose can help people stay in recovery for longer. From the study, of those given buprenorphine, 74 percent remained in treatment at two months, compared to just 53 percent of those given a referral to an addiction specialist and 47 percent of those offered intervention services. This new approach for addressing overdose might help get more people to treatment.
Do You Get Your Stomach Pumped for Overdose?
Usually, only in worst-case scenarios will doctors recommend pumping your stomach after an overdose. After someone overdoses on drugs or alcohol, pumping the stomach can help whatever remains from getting into the body. It also reduces the impact of the substances and could potentially save someone’s life.
Most drug overdoses involve over-the-counter medications. However, when the stomach’s substance is corrosive — such as lye or ammonia — a gastric lavage could corrode the tube and equipment used to perform the pumping. When this happens, the stomach’s fluid can easily leak into the lungs, causing severe consequences. Usually, a charcoal substance can help further eliminate any leftover poison or drugs in the system.
However, this only happens when the person gets to the ER within a specific time frame after overdosing. The longer you take, the less effective will a gastric suction procedure be effective.
What to Do If Someone Overdoses
If you believe someone is experiencing an overdose, you need to get help right away. Call 911 as soon as you notice any of the previous signs of overdose. If the person is having a seizure, carefully hold their head to prevent any injuries. Try to tilt their head to one side to prevent them from choking if they vomit.
It’s also advisable to place something in their mouth to prevent them from biting their tongue or choking with their tongue. No matter what you do, please don’t attempt to hold their arms or legs while they suffer a seizure.
Please don’t attempt to give them any substances or medication to reverse the overdose without proper instructions. Emergency help should provide essential care at the scene or walk you through what to do over the phone.
A complete drug and poison screening will help determine the substances the person took. Intravenous fluids will help ease side effects like nausea and high blood pressure. Medications might help prevent further overdose effects, alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and prevent long-term complications such as kidney failure.
If you or someone you love is battling an addiction, seeking professional help immediately is crucial. Addiction is a progressive disease, and due to the highly addictive nature of this specific chemical substance, rapid physical deterioration is common and especially devastating.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction specialists are ready to help you find the best treatment course to overcome addiction. Contact our team today and learn more about our drug addiction treatment programs.