Remembering Lives Lost On International Overdose Awareness Day

By Lindsey Weedston 08/30/19

International Overdose Awareness Day is on Saturday, August 31st.

International Overdose Awareness Day
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International Overdose Awareness Day is on August 31st, like every year since it began in Australia in 2001. This year, the National Safety Council (NSC) is encouraging people in the U.S. to recognize the awareness day and “remember loved ones and act toward preventing overdose,” according to Occupational Health & Safety.

Overdose death rates in the U.S. have been on the rise for decades, increasing from 6.1 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 21.7 in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The increases were particularly severe from 2012 to 2017, though early reports appear to show a slight decrease from 2017 to 2018, sparking hopes that national efforts to fight this epidemic are beginning to show results.

Spreading the Word

Still, tens of thousands of people in the U.S. alone are dying yearly, and the NSC is working to reduce the stigma of drug addiction and spread the word.

“Opioid misuse touches one in every four Americans, and these deaths are completely preventable,” said NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin. “It is also a time to reduce stigma and prevent future deaths by supporting education and advocacy efforts.”

The NSC is recommending a number of actions that groups and individuals can take to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day, including holding a candlelight vigil, hosting a fundraiser, wearing purple, and adding the name of someone who died of an opioid overdose to the Celebrating Lost Loved Ones map.

How To Participate

The International Overdose Awareness Day website has additional ideas and resources for ways to participate and has already registered a long list of events from all around the world, from Afghanistan to Waupaca, Wisconsin. You can also post or read tributes about lost loved ones on the website or download free social media graphics, t-shirt designs, and overdose fact sheets.

In 2014, the campaign partnered with the Penington Institute in Australia, which is dedicated to building knowledge and increasing awareness around substance use disorders and equipping frontline workers to act on the problem.

“Overdose does not discriminate, and the number of people affected by it are increasing around the world,” reads the 2018 International Awareness Day Partners Report. “Part of what makes overdose so deadly is the silence that surrounds it. At Penington Institute, we envisage a world where overdose is destigmatized and better understood; where policy makers make well-informed and evidence-based decisions that help those who are at risk of overdose.”

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: