Post-Overdose Recovery Process

When it comes to drug overdoses, providing follow-up care is crucial in preventing additional nonfatal or fatal overdoses. Connecting individuals who have experienced a nonfatal drug overdose with appropriate treatment and support is essential for their recovery and overall well-being. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the importance of follow-up care after a drug overdose and discuss various aspects of the recovery process. From transitioning of care to mental health support, medication-assisted treatment, naloxone, recovery and social supports, and stable housing, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the steps involved in post-overdose care.

Transition of Care: Ensuring a Smooth Continuity

People who receive medical treatment for a nonfatal drug overdose from a hospital or emergency medical services greatly benefit from a smooth transition of care. A transition of care refers to the movement between two systems, such as from detox to treatment in a hospital or from the hospital back to a primary care clinic. However, a recent study reveals alarming statistics about the lack of transition of care for patients with chemical health needs, especially after a nonfatal overdose 1.

According to the study:

  • Approximately 90% of patients continue to receive prescription opioids even after a nonfatal opioid overdose.
  • In 70% of cases, the opioid prescription following a nonfatal overdose comes from the same prescriber who prescribed opioids before the overdose.
  • 46% of patients who received an opioid prescription following a nonfatal overdose had a previous diagnosis of substance use disorder.
  • Within a year, 7% of patients included in the study suffered an additional nonfatal opioid overdose.

These statistics highlight the need for improved coordination and communication between healthcare providers to ensure a seamless transition of care. Emergency departments play a crucial role in connecting individuals using drugs with treatment providers. While the emergency room visit may be brief, it presents an opportunity to address other healthcare needs and provide essential support services to prevent future overdoses, such as mental health support, medication-assisted treatment, and access to culturally specific recovery supports and stable housing.

Mental Health Support: Addressing Trauma and Building Resilience

Surviving a drug overdose can be a traumatic experience, leaving individuals in need of mental health support. Connecting patients with mental health services in their community is crucial for their overall recovery. A warm handoff, where a nurse or first responder builds trust and facilitates the connection between the patient and mental health services, can be particularly effective 1. This relationship-based approach helps individuals develop a treatment plan and receive ongoing care for their mental health needs.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): A Path to Recovery

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) provides an option for individuals to stop using opioids without experiencing the withdrawal symptoms that can make recovery challenging. Patients who initiate MAT in the hospital have shown lower rates of illicit opioid use and are more likely to maintain their recovery compared to those who have to wait to begin MAT after a nonfatal overdose 1. However, accessing MAT can often be challenging, with waiting lists for treatment programs and limited availability of providers who can prescribe MAT.

One promising approach to reduce future overdoses is to initiate MAT in the emergency department itself, rather than requiring patients to find an MAT provider in their community and wait for an appointment 2. By starting MAT immediately, individuals have a better chance of sustaining their recovery and avoiding relapse.

Naloxone: A Life-Saving Medication

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of opioids during an overdose. It is available from various sources and can be prescribed by physicians to patients who may be at risk of experiencing a nonfatal overdose 1. Having access to naloxone is crucial not only for individuals who have experienced an overdose but also for their friends and family members. Pharmacies authorized to dispense naloxone can fill prescriptions, ensuring that this life-saving medication is readily accessible.

Recovery and Social Supports: Building Resilience and Community

Recovery from substance use and the prevention of future overdoses require a strong support network and culturally specific recovery supports. Connecting individuals with continued care, mutual support groups, and peer recovery services is vital for their sustained recovery 1. The Minnesota FastTracker is an invaluable resource for finding culturally specific substance use treatment options across the state. Recovery support services encompass a range of interventions, including outpatient care, peer recovery programs, and recovery support groups. Culturally specific recovery supports acknowledge and respect each client’s unique cultural attitudes and values about substance use. Having providers with diverse racial, ethnic, and gender identities is essential to ensure that patients feel recognized and have their experiences of discrimination and racism validated.

Housing: Stability and Recovery

Stable housing plays a significant role in preventing substance misuse, overdose, and facilitating follow-up care after a drug overdose. Lack of stable housing and homelessness are major risk factors for experiencing a second overdose 3. Housing options for individuals who have experienced an overdose and wish to abstain from substances can be challenging to find in the community. Developing sober housing, expanding in-patient treatment services, and improving access to housing can greatly support individuals in maintaining their recovery from substance use following an overdose.


Follow-up care after a drug overdose is critical for preventing future nonfatal or fatal overdoses and supporting individuals on their path to recovery. From ensuring a smooth transition of care to providing mental health support, medication-assisted treatment, naloxone access, recovery and social supports, and stable housing, comprehensive post-overdose care addresses the multifaceted needs of individuals grappling with substance abuse. By implementing these strategies, healthcare providers, communities, and support systems can make a significant impact in preventing future overdoses and promoting long-term recovery. Call us today at 833-820-2922.