Packing Overdose Victims in Ice Could Be Deadly, Doctors Warn

There’s a rumor floating around that packing people in ice immediately after an overdose can save their lives. And it’s dead wrong. Doctors routinely see patients arrive in their emergency rooms with dangerously low body temperatures, and they are forced not only to treat the overdose, but also to use warming blankets and other methods to attempt to bring the patient back to a normal temperature.

Dr. Dustin Calhoun has seen this happen time and again. He told USA Today that there’s “no evidence that cooling someone suffering from a narcotics overdose has any medical benefit.” He added, “It definitely does not wake them up….These people already have respiratory depression.”

The idea of ice baths for an overdose is not new but has been seen much more frequently these days, thanks to the increase in overdoses during the opioid crisis currently gripping the nation.

Alicia Bishop, a Cincinnati woman, was dumped at the doors of an emergency room, packed in ice in 2011. She doesn’t remember anything after shooting up and has no idea how she arrived at the hospital. She later learned that her friends had placed her in a bathtub filled with ice, and left her there for six hours. A friend finally called out to a police officer she found on the street, and when Bishop arrived at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, her body temperature was hovering at 86 degrees. At that temperature, she was suffering from moderate hypothermia, which is when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. It also causes heart and respiratory functions to become depressed.

Bishop was told that she could have died from the ice bath she endured. Luckily, she is now in recovery.