International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on August 31 each year. It aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.
Overdose Awareness Day originated in Australia in 2001. After more than a decade, the observance has grown into a global campaign. Last year almost 500 events were held across the world and 2018 promises to break that record.
More than 240 events are scheduled in the United States. North America continues to experience the highest drug-related mortality rate in the world, accounting for one-in-four drug-related deaths globally. According to the CDC, the opioid overdose epidemic resulted in the deaths of approximately 300,000 persons in the United States during 1999–2015.
The goals of International Overdose Awareness Day are:
- To provide an opportunity for people to publicly mourn loved ones in a safe environment, some for the first time without feeling guilt or shame.
- To include the greatest number of people in International Overdose Awareness Day events, and encourage non-denominational involvement.
- To give community members information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdose.
- To send a strong message to current and former people who use drugs that they are valued.
- To stimulate discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy.
- To provide basic information on the range of support services that are available.
- To prevent and reduce drug-related harm by supporting evidence-based policy and practice
- To inform people around the world about the risk of overdose.
Substance use disorders are complex conditions that are often driven by underlying conditions such as anxiety disorder, trauma, and depression. Overdose Awareness Day is an opportunity to fight the stigma still attached to this brain disease and help inform the public about its impact on families and communities.
What You Can Do
The National Safety Council suggests inviting people to a local gathering at a community center, library, park or other public space:
- Hold a candlelight vigil
- Offer an educational program, such as one related to preventing opioid use, in partnership with a local organization
- Provide a safe space for telling the stories of overdose victims
- Offer a large canvas and washable paint for survivors to add a handprint in memory of their loved one
- Display empty hats or shoes to represent the number of lives lost in the community
Do Not Delay - Seek Help
If you, a loved one or a friend are at risk of suffering a drug overdose because of a substance use disorder, please, seek help immediately. Talk to your doctor or call The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place in Virginia to find out what treatment options are available. Recovery from a severe substance use disorder requires a medically supervised detox and comprehensive addiction treatment to address all the patient’s needs. The multidisciplinary team at Farley includes an addiction medicine physician, an addiction psychiatrist, psychologists, licensed clinicians, and nurses to give patients the best possible start into a successful recovery from addiction.
Addiction is a chronic disease that can be mitigated, but it is important to take action early on. Don’t wait for an arrest or an overdose! Seek help as soon as possible.