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International Overdose Awareness Day 2018

Last week saw us participating in International Overdose Awareness Day which took place on August 31st. Each year, thousands of lives are needlessly lost to drug overdose and we feel it’s important to build awareness of drug overdoses through every means possible. International Overdose Awareness Day is, as the name suggests, a global initiative. After all, no country in the World is immune from drug overdoses.

International Overdose Awareness Day has two functions:

  1. To increase awareness of drug overdoses
  2. To reduce the stigma attached to drug-related deaths

Increasing awareness of drug overdoses

Many lives would be saved if more of us were capable of recognizing the symptoms of a drug overdose. International Overdose Awareness Day serves to educate the public about the signs and symptoms of a drug overdose and what to do if these signs and symptoms are observed in a loved one. The symptoms arising from a drug overdose vary depending upon the type of drug that’s abused. For instance, the signs of a heroin overdose will differ compared to an amphetamine overdose.

Increasing awareness of these symptoms caused by drug overdose helps to prevent overdose fatalities. Early medical intervention offers overdose victims the best possible chance of survival. If you are able to recognise the symptoms of a drug overdose in a loved one or friend, you are more likely to contact the emergency services without delay.

When medical assistance is sought out, specialist drugs that serve as an antidote will be administered. For instance, if a person is overdosing on opiates, a drug known as naloxone (Narcon) can be administered to save this person’s life.

Removing the stigma associated with drug-related deaths

Even in 2018, there still exists stigma around drug-related deaths. This stigma contributes to the problem because it serves to prevent people from seeking out help for their addiction for fear of being branded a ‘junkie.’

We feel the stigma surrounding drug-related deaths is untenable. Those who have lost someone to drug overdoses often feel a sense of shame or even disgrace. International Overdose Awareness Day helps to combat this stigma by educating local communities that have been affected by drug overdoses.

Terms such as ‘crackhead’, ‘junkie’ and ‘smackhead’ serve to illustrate the fact that drug use is still widely stigmatised by society. International Overdose Awareness Day helps to educate people to the fact that addiction is a disease and not a moral failing or character flaw. These derogatory terms are unhelpful and only serve to push drug users further away from society.

The origins of International Overdose Awareness Day

2018 marked the 17th anniversary of International Overdose Awareness Day. The first event of this nature took place in 2001. This global movement was initially established by the Salvation Army in St. Kelda, Melbourne. The Salvation Army has assisted those affected by drug addiction for many decades, and so their decision to establish a formal International Overdose Awareness Day is an evolution in their proud history in this important area.

Annually, it’s estimated that as many as 150,000 affected by drug addiction are helped by the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army assists these people by:

  • Providing resources for addiction treatment
  • Help in building social and work skills
  • Helping people re-connect with their families

Today, International Overdose Awareness Day has grown to incorporate the help of charities, governments, non-governmental organisations, volunteers, community leaders and individual participants. Without the help of these people, International Overdose Awareness Day would not have become the global event it has now become. Events linked to International Overdose Awareness Day are coordinated by the Penington Institute, an Australian not-for-profit.

How to contribute in 2019’s events

The next International Overdose Awareness Day will take place in August 2019. You can register an event by clicking here.

Past events for International Overdose Awareness Day have included:

  • Providing educational training
  • Hosting an expert speaker in this area
  • Holding a commemorative barbecue
  • Holding a memorial service
  • Planting a tree in memory of those lost to drug overdose
  • Hold a group session to hear out those who have lost someone to drug overdose

Getting help if your loved one is using drugs

If you suspect your loved one is addicted to drugs, then it’s best to seek out professional help without delay. Doing so could prevent your loved-one from suffering a fatal overdose. The drugs most likely to result in an overdose include opiates, alcohol, barbiturates and benzodiazepines. All of these drugs are physically addictive, so your loved one will require a medically supervised detox.

The USA has witnessed a dramatic rise in deaths caused by opiate-related overdoses. This is largely due to black-market opiates being laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is itself an opiate said to be 200 times stronger than heroin. It’s said that it’s only a matter of time before fentanyl-laced opiates begin to hit the United Kingdom. This means you should be highly concerned if your loved-one is a known opiate user.

The most effective form of addiction treatment is known as residential rehab. When your loved-one begins treatment, he or she will live inside the rehab clinic until the treatment is concluded. During this period, your loved one will benefit from 24-hour access to medical help.

To discover local rehab clinics in your area, contact our free helpline today on 0800 138 0722.