The term drug overdose (or simply overdose or OD) describes the ingestion or application of a drug or other substance in quantities greater than are recommendedor generally practiced. An overdose may result in a toxic state or death.
The word "overdose" implies that there is a common safe dosage and usage for the drug; therefore, the term is commonly only applied to drugs, not poisons, though even certain poisons are harmless at a low enough dosage. Drug overdoses are sometimes caused intentionally to commit suicide or as self-harm, but many drug overdoses are accidental, the result of intentional or unintentional misuse of medication. Intentional misuse leading to overdose can include using prescribed or unprescribed drugs in excessive quantities in an attempt to produce euphoria.
Usage of illicit drugs of unexpected purity, in large quantities, or after a period of drug abstinence can also induce overdose. Cocaineusers who inject intravenously can easily overdose accidentally, as the margin between a pleasurable drug sensation and an overdose is small.
Unintentional misuse can include errors in dosage caused by failure to read or understand product labels. Accidental overdoses may also be the result of over-prescription, failure to recognize a drug's active ingredient, or unwitting ingestion by children. A common unintentional overdose in young children involves multi-vitamins containing iron. Iron is a component of the hemoglobin molecule inblood, used to transport oxygen to living cells. When taken in small amounts, iron allows the body to replenish hemoglobin, but in large amounts it causes severe pH imbalances in the body. If this overdose is not treated with chelation therapy, it can lead to death or permanent coma.
The term 'overdose' is often misused as a descriptor for adverse drug reactions or negative drug interactions due to mixing multiple drugs simultaneously.