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  • Krystin Martin

International Overdose Awareness Day



August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. A coordinated event and cause that has been going on since its beginning in Australia twenty one years ago in 2001. This is something that, although its beginning was on the opposite side of the world, is now seen, celebrated, and honored around the world. This campaign is something for the individuals that have lost loved ones, neighbors, and/or community members, to raise awareness and to educate those unaware and/or interested in learning to the facts, struggles, and stigma that comes with drug use, and to discuss the sheer fact that these tragedies are preventable. This day is to remember that person that overdosed in their light and glory without the stigma attached to the reason they may not be earth side anymore.


Let’s discuss the facts. Overdose is defined as when you take more than the normal or recommended amount of something, often a drug. The symptoms of a drug overdose include, but are not limited to: dizziness, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhea, snoring or gurgling, loss of balance and coordination, and being awake – but unresponsive. Most of these symptoms are like other medical concerns. Chest pains can be associated with a heart attack; Vomiting can be associated with the flu; Loss of balance or dizziness could be associated with vertigo. Or simply, snoring can be considered a nuisance . However, it is actually showing you that the person is having trouble breathing. Especially if that individual is using substances that slow down the systems in the body, snoring can be seen as obstruction of the airway and can be considering life threatening.

The regard for human life and sharing public health information that can help to preserve it can be overshadowed by misinformation and limited education and awareness on the impacts of overdose.

This brings us to one of the main issues in overdoses. There is a saying that 80% of individuals that use/abuse substances start with friends or people that they know. The end of that saying states: “…and when they overdose, 80% of them are left and found alone.” It is basically because most individuals are hesitant to call emergency responders for fear of law enforcement involvement. If there’s a concern that a person may be experiencing an overdose, please – call an ambulance. Most police involvement only happens when there is a threat to the responding team, there are situations that warrant an officer present, or if there is a fatality. When contacting emergency medical services, the most important thing to remember is to tell the dispatch that the person is suspected to or has overdosed. Do not be afraid to tell the medical professional detailed information on what had happened. It saves a lot of time and that time is crucial in those moments.


Some may be asking why this is nationally important. While yes, our rates of overdose deaths are at their highest, they are still just a fraction of a percent of our population. Some may feel that it is not as serious as some make it, or carry some stigmatized beliefs regarding the issue. Others may believe that the death was attributed to consequences of a personal choice, and should not be considered a public health concern. The point of the regard for human life and sharing public health information that can help to preserve it can be overshadowed by misinformation and limited education and awareness on the impacts of overdose.


Globally, the United States is topping the list, however of course not for a good reason. Analysis of the latest publicly available data from each country finds that in 2020, the U.S. had the highest unadjusted rate of drug overdose deaths: 277 lives lost per million residents. Scotland, which has long reported higher overdose mortality than the rest of the United Kingdom, is next at 267 deaths per million residents, followed by Canada with an opioid-related death rate of 171 deaths per million residents. The Coronavirus Pandemic has certainly played a role in the increase of lives lost to overdose, as well as the increase of those struggling with Substance Use Disorder. Regardless of the reason a person may have experienced overdose, their life is worth protecting, and if talking about overdose can help prevent future occurrence, we’re here to do it.

If there's a concern that a person may be experiencing an overdose, please - call an ambulance.

You can learn more about International Overdose Awareness Day, its campaign, as well as gain access to a variety of resources by visiting www.overdoseday.com. If you have a concern for a family member, friend, or even yourself, there is hope and we can help. Feel free to reach out to us at NJ Recovery & Wellness and we can help connect you to a qualified professional to address your concerns.