People from all walks of life have taken drugs throughout human history, for many reasons, with the most commonly used drugs are alcohol and cannabis. Most substance use does not harm the individual or anyone else, however in a small percentage of cases, people can experience negative consequences from their substance use, or become physically or psychologically dependent on drugs.

Recognizing the risks and signs of an overdose and knowing how to respond can save lives. Learn how and when to use Naloxone, receive tips on talking honestly and openly with friends and family members and find supervised consumption and overdose prevention services in your community.

If you are using drugs, there are steps you can take to help reduce your chance of experiencing an overdose:

The following signs may indicate that a person you are with is experiencing an overdose:

  • Can’t wake the person up
  • Breathing is very slow, erratic or has stopped
  • Deep snoring or gurgling sounds
  • Fingernails or lips are blue or purple
  • Body is very limp

If you suspect an overdose:

person shouting and shaking unconscious person

Step 1: Shout & Shake

Shout their name and Shake their shoulders.





phone 911

Step 2: Call 9-1-1

If the person is unresponsive, call 9-1-1 immediately.




nasal spray inserted into nostral

Step 3: Administer Naloxone

1 spray into the person’s nostril and/or one ampoule into the person’s arm or leg




person listening to unconscious person breathing

Step 4:Start CPR

Chest compressions and/or rescue breathing (if trained)




person laying in recovery position on side, head supported

Step 5: Assess if it is working

If there is no improvement in 2 – 3 minutes, repeat steps 3 & 4

Toronto Public Health’s The Works provides programs and services to reduce drug-related harm for people who take drugs, including preventing the spread of communicable diseases. Learn about the services provided by The Works.

Find a full list of agencies that offer harm reduction supplies and services across Toronto.

Naloxone is a safe medication that reverses the signs of opioid overdose by blocking the effects of opioids in the brain. Get trained for free on how to use naloxone to respond to an opioid overdose, and find out where naloxone is available in near you.

There are a number of support services available for family member and friends who are supporting a person with substance use issues. Find the right support for you.