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Definition Return to top
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.
Information Return to top
An overdose may be mild, moderate, or serious. Symptoms, treatment, and recovery depend on the specific drug involved. For more information see:
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. It is a free and confidential service. You should call if you have any questions about an overdose, poisoning, or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
References Return to top
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.Update Date: 1/19/2009 Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, Clinic. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.