International Overdose Awareness Day is an annual campaign created to educate the public on this critical public health issue, dispel the stigma surrounding drug-related deaths, and acknowledge the loved ones who were lost due to a drug overdose. As the number of global drug-related deaths continues to climb year after year, the need for education on this subject is more necessary than ever.
Drug Overdose Statistics
Drug abuse is a worldwide problem. According to the most recent data from the 2021 World Drug Report, there were nearly half a million drug-related deaths in a single year. Of those, it’s estimated that 128,000 of those were attributable to a direct cause such as an overdose—a 45% increase over the past decade.
Closer to home, the situation is just as dire. Drugs are the leading cause of death in the U.S., exceeding those attributed to car accidents, firearms, homicides, or HIV/AIDS.
- Drug overdose deaths have caused an estimated 841,000 deaths in the U.S. since 1999
- Over 93,000 Americans died from a drug-related overdose in 2020, a 30% increase from the previous year.
- Over 70% of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid, (approximately 69,000). Of those, 8 of 10 was a synthetic opioid such as fentanyl or tramadol
- West Virginia has the highest drug overdose deaths per capita (52.8 per 100,000 residents) which is 155% higher than the national average
Who’s At Risk?
- Americans between the ages of 25 to 44 are most susceptible to overdoses
- Men are twice as likely as women to die from an overdose
- For women, American Indian and Alaska Native ethnicities are the most likely to suffer an OD fatality
- For men, African-Americans experience the highest number of OD fatalities
The Origins of Overdose Awareness Day
Overdose Awareness Day was started in Melbourne in 2001, following a conversation between Sally Finn, the manager of a needle and syringe program in St. Kilda, Victoria, and Peter Streker, coordinator of the Community and Health Development Program at the City of Port Philip in Melbourne. She hoped that Overdose Day is a non-threatening opportunity to speak, ask, and learn about drug overdoses.
Finn was inspired by stories that she had encountered personally. She had counseled those who lost loved ones to overdose and encountered a person who had known seventeen such casualties. Through her counseling efforts, she became highly familiar with the stigma of overdose-related deaths and how it affected the grieving process
The first Overdose Awareness Day was a simple ribbon ceremony for those who wanted to honor a friend or family member. Approximately six thousand ribbons were given out and the event was considered a rousing success. Over the course of the next year, news of Overdose Awareness Day spread throughout Australia and New Zealand. They soon came out with the steel badge, which provided a slightly more tangible symbol of remembrance than the ribbons that had been previously used.
It wasn’t too long before Overdose Awareness Day was embraced across the globe. Overdose Awareness Day events can now be found in 10 countries across all continents. Its organization was taken over by the Penington Institute in 2012, but the Salvation Army Crisis Services program still considers Overdose Awareness Day to be a proud moment in their history. They continue to advocate against the negative stereotypes of drug-related fatalities.
How To Participate
There are multiple International Overdose Awareness Days events held around the world. These include vigils, educational seminars, training, and family-friendly gatherings that are open to the community. There are virtual events such as the virtual 5K or numerous social media campaigns for those who don’t live near a participating city. Visit the official Overdose Awareness Day website to find an event near you. Other ways to show support includes:
- Buying and wearing a silver badge, purple wristband, or a purple lanyard. Many participating cities will have important buildings lit with purple lights to show their support.
- Posting a tribute to be featured on the official Overdose Awareness Day page
- Using #OverdoseAware or #EndOverdose on your social media post
- Donating to the cause or other similar groups such as the National Safety Council (NSC), an organization dedicated to lowering overdose rates by offering a variety of programs.
- Hosting your own event. The organization that hosts the campaign has an event support kit for tools and tips on how to get involved.
However, drug overdoses are a major issue every day of the year, not just on August 31st. Here are easy things you can do to raise awareness and protect yourself from an overdose throughout the year:
- Get better educated about addiction, how it works, and the way different substances affect the body. Learn how to recognize the signs of an overdose. Those who take quick action can prevent deadly consequences.
- Don’t wait to get addiction treatment until overdose (or something else drastic) happens. Whether it’s for yourself or a loved one, rehab is still extremely beneficial for mild cases of addiction.
- Learn how to use Narcan and have it readily available at all times. Opioid addiction rates have been steadily climbing. The best way to prevent a deadly opioid overdose is to administer Narcan as soon as possible. This prescription medication can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
- Store your medications in a secure and safe place. Many addicts get their drugs from family members and close friends who were prescribed the drug. To prevent others from abusing your drugs, store your meds in a secure and safe place.
Amethyst Recovery Center Aims to Lower Overdose Rates
Here, at Amethyst Recovery Center, we sympathize with those who have lost a loved one to an overdose. We offer a wide range of individualized addiction treatment programs that help those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs. Those who complete our programs are less likely to relapse and are more likely to abstain from alcohol and drugs for life.
If you are interested in getting admitted into one of our programs or if you’re concerned for a loved one, contact us today. Our goal is to help our patients achieve lifelong recovery. We hope to make a difference by doing our part to lower overdose rates.