Substance Use

Prednisone Overdose: What You Need to Know

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older man upset prednisone overdose

What You Need To Know About Prednisone Overdose

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, prednisone proved beneficial in keeping sick patients from developing respiratory failure and dying. Doctors prescribe prednisone to millions of Americans each year to reduce chronic pain and inflammation.

Although cases of prednisone overdose remain relatively low, it is still a possibility. 

Are you worried that you or a loved one might be addicted to prednisone or at risk of an overdose? Zinnia Healing can help you curb your addiction and kick cravings for good. To learn the first steps, call Zinnia Healing at (855) 430-9439. 

Can You Overdose on Prednisone?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on prednisone, though occurrences of severe overdoses remain low. 

The elimination half-life of prednisone, which is the time it takes for half of the medication to leave your system, is three to four hours. If you take more than prescribed within this time, you could overdose.

An accidental overdose is more likely when using the liquid version of this medication. 

What To Do in an Emergency

If you suspect someone close to you is overdosing on prednisone, call 911 immediately.

Please call 911 right away to get help and advice for a person who is overdosing.

What Are the Treatment Options for a Prednisone Overdose? 

If you think someone has overdosed on prednisone and they are still alert and speaking, call your local poison control center at (800) 222-1222. 

Poison control can help determine if the person is at risk of adverse effects or needs medical help.

If poison control concludes that the person has overdosed, they will require medical attention from an emergency healthcare provider. 

Corticosteroid is the ingredient in prednisone that causes the overdose to occur. 

To treat a corticosteroid overdose, the emergency room physician will first record the person’s vital signs and gather health information to determine what kind of treatment is needed. 

These tests include:

  • Serum and urinalysis: To check the level of toxicity and determine if any organs are damaged
  • Imaging: A chest x-ray to look for fluid in the lungs
  • ECG: An electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure the heart’s electrical activity and to detect damage

After conducting these tests, the physician will provide any or all of the following treatments:

  • Activated charcoal
  • IV fluids
  • Laxatives
  • Medicines like hydrocortisone to treat adverse symptoms or drug interactions
  • Breathing support
  • Stomach cleansing (gastric lavage)

Most people recover well if they only have minor changes to their body’s electrolytes. However, the prognosis is more severe in those with heart rhythm changes. 

Is a Prednisone Overdose Dangerous?

A prednisone overdose can be deadly, though the prognosis differs from person to person. 

Depending on how much the person used or what they used it with — they may have no symptoms, have adverse symptoms, or even die despite being treated for an overdose.

A person who overdoses on prednisone alone is not likely to die from the overdose.  

How Much Prednisone Does It Take To Overdose?

The amount of prednisone it takes to overdose isn’t known. However, National Institutes of Health experts state that sustained prednisone use at 40 mg daily can cause adverse effects. 

There are no recorded reports of someone accidentally overdosing by taking large doses of prednisone. So, taking large dosages in a short period is likely intentional. 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Prednisone Overdose?

The signs associated with a prednisone overdose are due to its corticosteroid inclusion. 

The signs and symptoms are as follows:

  • Difficulty hearing or loss of hearing
  • Burning or itchy skin
  • Altered mental state (agitation and psychosis)
  • Depression 
  • Changes in heart rhythm 
  • Increased appetite
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Swollen limbs
  • Weak bones
  • Worsening of pre-existing health conditions

In addition to the above-listed symptoms, a person may convulse if they’ve taken the medication Cyclosporine with prednisone. 

Are you struggling with prednisone addiction and want to stop — but don’t know where to start? Zinnia Healing can help.

Our residential treatment centers staff caring professionals that know what it takes to achieve long-lasting recovery. Our programs include medication management, detox, therapy, and aftercare. Call us at (855) 430-9439 to learn more. 

What Increases the Risk of a Prednisone Overdose?

Taking high doses of prednisone over a prolonged period increases the risk of an overdose. 

Taking prednisone with medications in the same class (such as methylprednisolone or dexamethasone) can cause serious side effects leading to an overdose. 

Why Does a Prednisone Overdose Occur?

The liver metabolizes prednisone and switches it to its inactive form, prednisolone. Prednisolone is four to six times more potent than prednisone, and it takes two to three hours for both substances to reduce by half in the bloodstream. 

Acute overdoses occur within this two- to three-hour half-life window.

Though the amount it takes to overdose isn’t known, taking more than 40 mg of prednisone daily can lead to toxicity. 

When using another corticosteroid, the side effects of prednisone are worsened.

How To Tell Someone Is on Prednisone

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), prolonged prednisone use may cause the following symptoms:

  • Mental alterations
  • Swelling in the face (moon face)
  • Fluid retention
  • Excessive appetite
  • Abnormal menstrual cycle
  • Sleepiness
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Stretch marks (striae)
  • Discolored skin patches (ecchymosis)
  • Perfuse sweating
  • Dark skin spots (hyperpigmentation)
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Hair loss
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Fast heart rate (tachycardia) 
  • Recurrent infections
  • Slow healing wound
  • Frequent headaches
  • Weakness
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Increased menopausal symptoms
  • Random nerve pain (neuropathy)
  • Brittle bone disease (osteoporosis) 
  • Peptic ulcers

It’s important to note that the above-listed symptoms may mimic more serious medical conditions.

Why Would Someone Take Prednisone?

People take the corticosteroid prednisone to treat low corticosteroid levels and reduce inflammation caused by diseases like arthritis, asthma, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS.

It is extremely uncommon for a person to abuse a corticosteroid such as prednisone; thus, it isn’t listed as a controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). However, isolated cases of abuse may occur. 

Those who abuse prednisone may do so to feel more energetic or to trigger euphoria. 

Others may feel their prescription isn’t effective, leading them to take more than they should. 

Some people, unaware of the differences between anabolic steroids and corticosteroids, believe they will gain athletic ability by taking prednisone. As a result, they will be tempted to take more when they fail to experience this benefit. 

How To Help Someone With a Prednisone Use Disorder

Speaking to your loved one in a safe and open space may help them to open up about their substance use disorder. In some cases, however, a person might be too shy or scared to open up for fear of judgment.

In both cases, it’s best to speak to a professional third party, one with experience dealing with substance use disorders and that can provide a workable treatment plan.

Zinnia Healing can walk you through this process and provide helpful treatment options to get your loved one clean and sober for good.

We offer safe residential care facilities across the United States, providing mental health support, addiction treatment services, and wellness programs. Call (855) 430-9439 to find out more.