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What Are the Signs of a Naproxen Overdose?

By Lindsey Rivas
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The signs of a naproxen overdose can be severe and lead to death if not treated. Naproxen, which is also known as the over-the-counter medication Aleve or the prescription drug Naprosyn, is a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It is often used for pain relief and treating the symptoms of arthritis. Some of the signs of a naproxen overdose include extreme stomach pain, dark vomit, bloody stool, seizures, and coma. If a person overdoses on the medication, a poison control center or medical help should be contacted immediately so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Many of the symptoms of an overdose on naproxen affect the gastrointestinal system of the body. It can cause heartburn, nausea, extreme stomach pain, and bleeding in the stomach and intestines. Dark vomit that has an appearance similar to coffee grounds can be a sign of an overdose as well. Other symptoms include diarrhea and black or bloody stool.

Further signs of a naproxen overdose affect the rest of the body, including the central nervous system. An overdose can cause severe headache, extreme drowsiness, skin rash, and blurry vision. One might also experience slow and difficult breathing or wheezing, as well as problems with movement and unsteadiness. Some of the more serious symptoms include coughing up blood, fainting, seizures, and possibly coma.

In situations when a naproxen overdose occurs, one should contact the local poison control center or seek medical help immediately. A poison control worker or a doctor might ask for details about the person who overdosed, such as age, weight, and condition of health. He might also want to know the exact name of the naproxen medication that was ingested, along with the amount and time it was taken. Even if this information is not readily available, one should not wait to get medical attention.

It is possible to recover from a naproxen overdose with proper treatment; otherwise, it can be fatal. A hospital or other medical center can give the patient activated charcoal, which will absorb the excess naproxen. This helps keep the body from absorbing toxic amounts of the medication. It also might be necessary to pump the stomach or wash it out using a tube inserted through the mouth or nose and into the stomach. A doctor might recommend having lab tests done, such as complete blood count or liver and kidney function tests, in order to check the status and recovery of the patient.

What Is Naproxen and Who Should Take It?

Naproxen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to relieve pain and swelling. It is a common treatment for conditions such as headache, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fever, toothache, muscle pain, and gout. It is sold generically or under brand names such as Aleve, Anaprox, or Naprosyn. It can also be prescribed by a healthcare professional.

Naproxen typically comes in two forms: the base naproxen or naproxen sodium. Naproxen is slightly stronger than naproxen sodium when taken in similar amounts. Follow the instructions on the label carefully to avoid accidentally taking too much.

Naproxen should not be taken by someone pregnant as it can be harmful to the fetus. Acetaminophen is commonly recommended as a safer alternative. If the person is lactating, a doctor should be consulted before use. Alcohol can cause adverse effects when used in combination with naproxen. Naproxen can cause stomach upset especially if not taken with food. Dizziness or drowsiness may be experienced after taking naproxen. Avoid using aspirin or anticoagulants in conjunction with naproxen.

Common side effects of naproxen include body fluid retention, tinnitus, constipation, and headaches. Tell your doctor if you experience any serious side effects such as difficult or painful swallowing, mental or mood changes, stiff neck, vision changes, or easy bleeding or bruising.

Serious side effects are more common in those with liver or kidney problems as naproxen can worsen these issues. Be aware of symptoms of liver damage. If you have uncontrollable nausea or vomiting, dark urine, yellowing of the eyes or skin, or a loss of appetite, you may be experiencing liver failure.

Naproxen can cause holes in the stomach or intestine, bleeding, or ulcers. The risk of this is especially high in older adults or those who drink more than three alcoholic drinks per day.

Some people can be allergic to naproxen. If you take naproxen and have difficulty breathing, severe dizziness, itching or swelling, or rash, you may be going through an allergic reaction.

Taken properly, naproxen is usually a safe medication. However, you should be careful not to overdose. Certain medications and foods may interact with naproxen to increase its potency which can result in accidental overdose.

Can You Overdose on Naproxen?

Yes. Overdosing on naproxen can cause a variety of symptoms, some of which are serious. If left untreated a severe overdose can lead to death.

Side effects vary from person to person. Many side effects involve gastrointestinal problems. Some common gastrointestinal side effects of a naproxen overdose include:

  • Severe stomach pain
  • Dark vomit
  • Bloody stool
  • Bleeding in the intestines or stomach
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn

In addition to gastrointestinal issues, other parts of your body may be affected as well including your central nervous system. You may experience blurry vision, skin rash, or severe drowsiness. Your respiratory system may be affected and you may have difficulty breathing or wheezing. Your sense of balance might be thrown off and you may experience unsteadiness or other problems with moving.

The more serious side effects of a naproxen overdose are seizures, fainting, coughing up blood, and coma.

This is not a complete list of side effects you may experience after a naproxen overdose.

What Happens If You Overdose on Naproxen?

Recovery from a naproxen overdose is possible if given proper medical attention. Most overdoses are not fatal when treated promptly.

If you or someone else overdoses on naproxen you should call a local poison control center immediately. Regardless of where you are in the United States, they can be reached through the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Someone at the center will ask you questions regarding the health, age, and weight of the person who was poisoned. They will likely ask you how much was taken, when it was taken, and the precise name of the naproxen ingested. Even if you don’t have this information readily available you should still contact the center as soon as possible.

If the person who overdosed is already experiencing life-threatening side effects or is in a coma, call 911.

When you visit a medical facility they will treat your symptoms. They may treat you with activated charcoal to reduce the amount of naproxen in your body. Alternately, they may pump the stomach. If you experience difficulty breathing they might use airway support treatments which include intubation or ventilation.

You might be asked to take a chest x-ray or electrocardiogram. In some cases, laxatives may be prescribed. Rarely, you may be asked to undergo kidney dialysis.

After treatment, you may be prescribed blood tests and liver and kidney function tests. You might also be asked to take a urine test.

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Discussion Comments

By Mykol — On Aug 03, 2011

A friend of mine was hospitalized for two days because of taking Naproxen for his arthritis. This was really scary because at first they could not figure out what was going on and ran all kinds of tests.

I don't think he had taken an overdose, but his body had a strange reaction to this medication. Ever since then he has taken something else to keep his arthritis pain under control.

While these medications can make a big difference for many people, if you have an odd reaction after taking them, I would not hesitate to contact your doctor to see what is going on.

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