If you think someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately. Learn more about the signs of overdose.


Virginia is working with community members and law enforcement to prevent fatal opioid overdoses. Friends, family members, residents, and law enforcement all have a role to play when someone is misusing drugs. Naloxone (also known as Narcan) and the state’s REVIVE! training program have empowered bystanders to intervene and save lives. 

If you think someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately.

Signs of Opioid Overdose

An opioid overdose is a breathing emergency: Opioids slow down the central nervous system, and their overuse can lead to a sudden decrease in breathing and heart rate.

The key sign of an overdose is a lack of response someone shows, even to pinching, shaking, or loudly calling the person’s name.

These are other major signs of an overdose:

  • Breathing slowly or not at all; making gurgling noises
  • Turning very pale, with blue or purple fingernails and lips in people with light skin; gray or ashen fingernails and lips in people with dark skin

What To Do if Someone Has Overdosed

If you see signs that someone has overdosed, call 911 immediately and remain with the person until medical help arrives. After calling 911, administer naloxone to reverse the effects of the overdose and help restore breathing.

After the person has been revived, they should see a doctor to make sure the overdose did not result in damage to any internal organs. They should also develop a plan with their healthcare team to prevent a future overdose. A psychological evaluation and access to mental health support should be part of the prevention plan.

The Role of Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers have begun to monitor prescriptions more carefully to reduce the risks associated with long-term opioid therapy. In 2016, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services published the Report of the Health and Criminal Justice Data Committee, which provides a multidisciplinary perspective on issues that affect both the health and criminal justice spheres — including the misuse of heroin and prescription drugs.

In 2018, the Virginia Board of Medicine adopted regulations to govern the prescribing of opioids and buprenorphine for physicians statewide. Virginia’s nurses, dentists, optometrists, and veterinarians also have opioid guidelines. This guidance is designed to ensure that all of Virginia’s healthcare providers prescribe opioids in the safest way possible.

The Role of Law Enforcement

Law enforcement members play a critical role in a community’s response to the opioid epidemic. They are central to ensuring the use of naloxone to combat overdose. They work with individuals and groups to start naloxone programs in their communities and provide helpful resources such as the Law Enforcement Naloxone Toolkit.

How You Can Help

Want to get involved? Volunteering with a community coalition is a great way to join others in making an impact. Check out the Community Coalitions of Virginia to connect with a coalition in your area.

Get involved now