Be Citizen Ready: Recognizing the Signs of an Opioid Overdose – Paramedic Services Week 2021 Blog Series

27 May Be Citizen Ready: Recognizing the Signs of an Opioid Overdose – Paramedic Services Week 2021 Blog Series

Throughout Canada the misuse of opioids, particularly fentanyl, is a growing public health crisis. In some parts of Ontario, paramedic services are responding to a record-breaking amount of calls related to Opioid overdose. Opioids—like fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone and hydromorphone—are medications that can help relieve pain. They can be legally prescribed or found in different forms illegally i.e. street drugs. For example, Fentanyl and other dangerous substances are being mixed with or disguised as other drugs like heroin, cocaine and ecstasy/MDMA. Anyone using opioids, even in small amounts, can overdose. Here’s how to recognize an opioid overdose and how you can help:

Signs of an opioid overdose

  • Blue lips or nails
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Can’t be woken up
  • Choking, gurgling or snoring sounds
  • Slow, weak or no breathing
  • Drowsiness or difficulty staying awake


How you can help

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number
  • If at an organized event such as a concert or festival, ask staff for help.
  • Administer naloxone if you have it
  • Stay with the person until help arrives


It’s also important to know that The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act can protect you from simple drug possession charges. The Act applies to anyone seeking emergency support during an overdose as well as anyone else at the scene when help arrives. The hope is that this will help reduce fear of police attending overdose events and encourage people to help save a life.

More information

Public education, prevention and early action (i.e. being Citizen Ready) can greatly influence outcomes related to opioid addiction and overdose. You have the power to make a significant contribution to reducing opioid-related deaths by educating yourself and sharing your knowledge with others. Here are some resources to get you started:







Reference: Paramedic Chiefs of Canada, Government of Canada and Government of Ontario