Community Orgs Health Care

Do You Know the Signs Of an Opioid Drug Overdose? Here’s What To Do When It Happens.

Eau Claire City-County Health Department offers tips to help prevent drug misuse and how to recognize the signs of overdose

V1 Staff |

An overdose can happen in the blink of an eye, and many people don’t know what to do when it happens.

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department is working to change that, as local health officials recently created two videos (available in English, Spanish, and Hmong) to provide education on what opioids are and how to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose.

“We want to empower individuals to make safer choices,” said Sarah Dillivan-Pospisil, a public health specialist at the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.


Opioids are a type of drug that work in the brain to stop pain. They range from illegal drugs (heroin and fentanyl) to prescription medications such as Vicodin. Doctors may prescribe opioid medication to treat chronic pain or for recovery after surgery. Not taking medications as directed can to lead to addiction, illegal use, or even an overdose.

To prevent opioid medication misuse, health officials recommend taking only the amount of a medication that a doctor or physician instructs you to take, always measure medicine using a measuring device from the pharmacy, and never cutting opioid patches into pieces.

Although prescription opioids can be helpful for a short period of time, all opioids (including prescribed ones!) can be addictive. For example, Fentanyl is a powerful opioid medicine prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain. But Fentanyl is also used illegally and is often mixed with heroin, which increases the risk of an overdose.


Opioid overdoses are at an all-time high in Eau Claire County, according to local health officials, and so it’s important to recognize the symptoms of an overdose in case it happens to someone you know.

“The number of suspected opioid overdoses has steadily increased over the last three years in Eau Claire County,” said Elizabeth Hagen, evaluator at the Eau Claire City-County Health Department. “We measure this by the number of times ambulances are dispatched to a suspected opioid overdose. In the first half of 2021 (from January through June), we had 53 ambulance runs compared to 44 in January through June of 2020.”

Here are some of the most common symptoms of an opioid overdose:

  • Irregular breathing
  • Unusual snoring or choking
  • Vomiting
  • Unable to wake
  • Limp body     
  • Slow or no pulseSweaty or clammy skin
  • Blue or pale skin, lips, fingertips, or feet


If you know or suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, first: try to wake the person up. Yell their name and rub your knuckles against their chest. If they do not respond, call 911. If you have Narcan available, the operator will be able to help walk you through how to administer it. You can also follow the directions on the box or bottle. If there is no response after two to three minutes, administer Narcan again, as more than one dose is sometimes needed. Narcan is a type of medicine that helps stop an overdose and save someone’s life. You can get Narcan without a prescription locally at Vivent Health (located at 505 S. Dewey St. in Eau Claire) or at the Eau Claire Comprehensive Treatment Center (located at 3440 Oakwood Hills Pkwy. in Eau Claire). You can also find a pharmacy that dispenses Narcan at



“70% of people who misuse opioids got their first pill from a family member or friend,” Dillivan-Pospisil said. “It is important to get rid of your opioid medicines as soon as you are no longer using them."

If you’re unsure where to safely dispose of unused prescription medications, you can visit the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention website: and click on “Prescription Drug Misuse and Safe Medication Disposal” and find a Take-Back Location.”  

There are also a few other easy ways to prevent medication misuse, according to Dillivan-Pospisil.

  • Use a lockbox, lock bag, or a locked drawer and hide the key.
  • Keep medicines in their original bottle or container.
  • Always know how many pills are in your pill bottles. This will help you know if any go missing.
  • Make sure the lids are tightly closed to prevent young children or pets from accidentally finding and swallowing them.

Learn more about the signs of overdose, what to do in the case of a drug overdose, and where to get Narcan, at