International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held August 31st each year to remember those gone too soon from opioid overdose deaths. It’s about honoring those who have lost their lives to overdose and supporting the grieving loved ones left behind. Individuals and communities around the world can do this by:
- Creating awareness of the issue itself
- Educating the public on the risks, signs, and consequences of opioid use disorder
- Implementing preventative actions
The overall goal? To reduce the stigma of addiction, spare more lives, and have fewer victims in the coming years.
Why International Overdose Awareness Day is Needed: The Problem with the Current Approach to Opioid Use Disorder
The current approach to the opioid epidemic is to criminalize, rather than support, individuals living with the disease of addiction. Locking people up for months on end, labeling them as drug addicts, and leaving them on replacement opioids indefinitely are more significant tactics that have failed, again and again. At best, these methods are ineffective. At worst, they stigmatize people and leave them feeling unheard, unseen, and misunderstood. This systemic failure is a significant contributor to the spiraling sense of hopelessness and depression many individuals feel, and ultimately contributes to the thousands of overdoses which claim the lives of so many people from all corners of American society every year.
But there’s good news:
The truth is more promising than what the status quo would have us believe. Addiction is a treatable and reversible condition. It can be a temporary issue and does not have to become an unavoidable fate. People have the right to go through a bad time in their life and recover from it—their past does not have to limit and control where they go and what they accomplish in the future.
The problem is that most financial profits are made on long-term management—not on cures or solutions. People are led to believe that the only way to “recover” from their opioid addiction is to use “legal” opioids such as methadone for the rest of their lives.
Let’s say this isn’t due to a greedy or stigmatized perspective—let’s give standard treatment centers the benefit of the doubt. But at the very least, these centers and medical teams are operating on a theory of “treatment” that is severely short-sighted. The focus is on managing symptoms of disease rather than addressing the root cause—which in the end still leaves people dependent on drugs.
It’s as if nobody thinks to ask the most important question of all: why are so many people abusing drugs in the first place?
There is a better way. Effective medical detoxification is possible and essential. Patients can be provided with in-hospital medical detox or rapid detox so they can be more emotionally present and engaged in not only addiction recovery but in mental health treatment, too. A medical approach to detoxification takes us beyond the label of “drug addict” and supports the person experiencing it. These medical treatment plans are not pre-set, but individually determined and implemented based on patients’ personal, health, and emotional needs.
The compassionate, individualized, and humanistic approach needs to be the new standard of care for opioid dependence. By honoring International Overdose Awareness Day, communities can help support this much-needed shift.
Get Involved: 5 Ways to Recognize International Overdose Awareness Day
Whether you want to honor the life of someone you lost to an opioid overdose, teach your fellow community members about opioid use disorder, or simply raise awareness about addiction in your community, there are plenty of ways you can use International Overdose Awareness Day as a vehicle to help you achieve your goals:
- Educate yourself. Learn about the signs and symptoms of overdose, how to prevent overdose, and how to respond to potential overdoses. The more you know about opioid addiction and dependence, the more you’ll be able to help reduce the stigma associated with this disease—a stigma which prevents people from seeking and receiving help. Excellent online resources to check out include the American Society of Addiction Medicine, International Overdose Awareness Day, and the Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Hold a memorial service. Include in your ceremony something that helps you express your grief and gratitude for the loved ones you’ve lost to addiction. Activities to try may include candle lighting, tree planting, banner signing, or tribute readings. This service can be as simple or as significant as you’d like—from a quiet barbecue in your backyard to a large service in your local park.
- Invite a speaker to your service, workplace, church, school, or any other group you’re a part of. The speaker (or speakers) can be anyone who has been touched by opioid overdose or addiction and/or is professionally knowledgeable about addiction and dependency (e.g., community advocate, physicians, police officers, certified alcohol drug counselors, etc.).
- Contact your local media. Create a press release, submit an op-ed, hop on your local news station, or arrange an interview with your local radio station. The more people you can inform in your community about International Overdose Awareness Day, the greater its impact can be. Great things to share and talk about include planned memorial activities, local organizations that people can donate to or volunteer with, and educational campaigns.
- Get connected. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and are ready to get help, find a reputable and high-quality detox and treatment center. Shop around, get second (third, fourth, fifth…) opinions, and arrange tours if possible. Addiction is a disease, and it can be cured. Know that you are deserving of the help you seek.
Every day, at least 130 Americans lose their lives to an opioid overdose. At the Waismann Method® treatment center and Domus Retreat in Orange County, California, we’re doing our part to change this sobering statistic and help people reclaim their lives. Our experienced team specializes in the care of patients living with opioid dependence. We offer advanced medical detox and rapid detox procedures, including anesthesia-assisted rapid detox, as well as a unique and essential individualized model of care.
Call (800) 423-2482 to start your journey toward a life free from opiates.