Today, August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Each year this international observance is to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, while also bringing people together to talk about opportunities for treatment and prevention.
An important part of International Overdose Awareness Day is acknowledging the grief felt by families and friends who have been affected by the death or permanent injury of a loved one as a result of drug overdose. All over the world communities hold events to honor the lives of those they have lost.
With 2017 having been the worst year for drug overdose death in American history, it isn’t hard to understand why this day is so important.
The theme this year is- Time to Remember. Time to Act.
International Overdose Awareness Day: Time to Remember
The United States is still in the grips of the worst it has ever seen. Current predictions state that over 72,000 people in the US died from drug overdoses in 2017. That is nearly 200 people every day. The ongoing opioid crisis is a major factor in the overdose outbreak. In both 2016 and 2017, at least two-thirds of overdose deaths were linked to opioids. Drugs like heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl are making the world far more dangerous than ever before.
Deaths from drug overdose are up among both men and women, all races, and adults of nearly all ages. Drug overdoses killed more people than:
- Car crashes
In fact, none of those have ever killed as many people in a single year as the projected death toll of overdoses in 2017.
This body count is higher than American casualties in the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined!
Needless to say, that leaves a lot of families torn apart and struggling to heal. Plenty of friends and family members will be remembering someone they loved who was taken from them. So as we observe International Overdose Awareness Day today, we take time to remember to be there for each other. It is hard to find anyone in America who has not been affected or doesn’t know someone who has been affected. It is time to remember those we know who have passed and to remember those we know are still struggling.
International Overdose Awareness Day: Time to Act
As we remember how drug overdose has impacted our world, we are also reminded that it is up to us to take action. If we want to fight the rising tides of overdose death, we have to work to support treatment opportunities and prevention resources for those who are still battling with their addictions.
A critical part of this conversation is also to reduce the stigma of substance use disorder. Far too many people never get the help they need because they are afraid of the judgments people suffering from addiction face.
The message behind International Overdose Awareness Day is also to remind people that overdose death is preventable, and more must be done in order to save lives. This not only means that we should advocate for more comprehensive treatment options, but that we advocate for harm reduction resources like naloxone expansion programs.
At the very least, taking action means getting involved in the conversation. Talk to friends and families members, or get involved at the local level with officials and communities organizations. If we really hope to stop the rising rates of overdose death, we have to at least be willing to talk about finding solutions and supporting those who need the help.
International Overdose Awareness Day: Get Involved
From North America to Africa, to Asia, Europe and Australia there are events and activities all over the world to get involved in International Overdose Awareness Day. There are all kinds of ways to get involved. If you wanted to create your own event, you can invite people to a local gathering. Host an activity such as:
- Hold a candlelight vigil
- Educational programs; something related to drug use prevention
- Partnering with a local organization
- Provide a safe and supportive environment for sharing the stories of overdose victims
- Offer a large canvas and washable paint for survivors to add a hand print in memory of their loved one
- Display empty hats or shoes to represent the number of lives lost in the community
- Purchase or create purple wristbands, pins, shirts or other items to wear in support
- Research legislation relating to overdose prevention, and write to your representative
There are so many ways to be a part of this day. You can go onto overdoseday.com and check out the events calendar to find community events in your area. You can even keep it small and just reach out to people in your life who have been impacted in some way. Help those closest to you, and try to be a part of this day any way you can.