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International Overdose Awareness Day – Where it Began and Its Impact Today

According to the CDC, the first-known wave of opioid overdoses began with the rise of opioid prescriptions in the 1990s. At the time, many pharmaceutical companies and prescribers did not have enough research about the potency and addictive nature of these medications. As methadone and semi-synthetic opioid usage began to increase in 1999 and into the early 2000s, there was a second wave of overdose deaths involving heroin. The third wave began in 2013 with illicitly manufactured fentanyl which is often added to heroin or cocaine without the user’s knowledge.

As we have seen today, there continues to be a pervasive opioid epidemic taking place throughout the United States. Just last year, opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts rose by 5%, the first annual increase in three years, reminding us that this public health issue has not gone away.

International Overdose Awareness Day

We hope that on International Overdose Awareness Day, we can shed light on a disease that has taken way too many lives. International Overdose Awareness Day began in 2001 in Australia and was created by Sally Finn who felt it was important to highlight the impact of drug use on individuals, families and communities around the world.

Over the years, she and her colleague Peter Streker have worked together to commemorate this holiday and encourage community members and organizations to hold events and programs to raise awareness and commemorate lives lost. As overdose tends to be a complicated and personal topic, this holiday helps bring compassion and understanding to family and friends who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to an overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day is observed every year across the globe on August 31. It is a time to remember those we have lost and provides an opportunity to take action to end the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health. If you would like to join us in raising awareness on Overdose Awareness Day and throughout National Recovery Month, you can celebrate by wearing the color purple, the official color of the addiction recovery movement; light a candle in remembrance of a loved one; provide a safe space for other people to tell their stories; and provide additional resources to those trying to cope.

Resources Available

As this day acknowledges those lives lost to overdoses, it also acknowledges the grief felt by their loved ones. Spectrum Health Systems understands that addiction is a complex disease and feels no one should have to fight it alone. Spectrum and Magnolia New Beginnings have partnered to create a weekly virtual meeting series specifically designed for families and friends of people who have a substance use disorder. These meetings provide a safe space for anyone interested in speaking with members of our recovery team as well as fellow participants who may have similar experiences to share.

As we have seen over the years, there is still more work to be done in terms of prevention, education, treatment, and recovery services for those struggling with an addiction, but we hope on International Overdose Awareness Day that you will help us in honoring individuals who we have lost to this disease and increase people’s understanding of substance use disorders.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or needs mental health services, call us today at 1-877-MyRehab and we’ll help you on the path to recovery.

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