An overdose is when you take more than the normal or recommended amount of something, usually a drug. An overdose may result in serious, harmful symptoms or death.
If you take too much of something on purpose, it is called an intentional or deliberate overdose.
If the overdose happens by mistake, it is called an accidental overdose. For example, a young child may accidentally take an adult's heart medication.
Your doctor may refer to an overdose as an ingestion. Ingestion means you swallowed something.
An overdose is not the same as a poisoning, although the effects can be the same. Poisoning occurs when someone or something (such as the environment) exposes you to dangerous chemicals, plants, or other harmful substance without your knowledge.
An overdose may be mild, moderate, or serious. Symptoms, treatment, and recovery depend on the specific drug involved.
In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
You should call if you have any questions about an overdose, poisoning, or poison prevention. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Kulig K. General approach to the poisoned patient. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. St Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2006:chap 145.
- Last reviewed on 1/28/2013
- Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.