“We like people who are similar to us.”
— Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
All of us are guilty of contributing to a stigma against something we didn’t understand because it was different than us. Even if it was as small as not wanting to read an autobiography in elementary school because you had only ever read Dr. Seuss. But the stigma against addiction is a much heavier and more somber than childhood reading preferences. It’s a major constituent in the formation of International Overdose Awareness Day.
What started as a remembrance event in the backyard of a suburban Australian crisis center in 2001 has now become an internationally celebrated organization. International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is celebrated every year on August 31st. It aims to raise awareness for drug overdose and not just reduce but eradicate the stigma associated with substance abuse.
International Overdose Awareness Day Goals:
Raise awareness of overdose
There were over 70,000 overdose deaths in the US alone in 2017 — a 10.4% increase from 2016.
Reduce the stigma of a drug-related death
The stigma surrounding substance abuse and addiction is a main deterrent that stops people from seeking help before overdose happens.
Acknowledge the grief of friends and family
Many friends and family members feel hindered from expressing their grief for a lost loved one. International Overdose Awareness Day offers a designated space (day) for friends and family to publicly grieve alongside others without feeling guilt or shame.
Spread the message that overdose death is preventable
The International Overdose Awareness Day website lays out overdose signs and symptoms as well as reassurance for contacting emergency medical services.
Glaringly Apparent Global Significance
Addiction is completely shrouded in stigma to those whose lives have yet to be touched by its devastation. Until we, ourselves struggle with a cocaine addiction or witness opiates deteriorate our own loved ones’ minds, we shrug addiction off as a character flaw of dropouts, criminals, and the homeless.
Even if addiction never makes it into your personal life (consider yourself very fortunate), all it takes is one look at the faces of these addicts to see that they’re not different from us. They’re just normal people.
Over one quarter of a billion people use drugs globally.
It’s estimated that there is a minimum of 190,900 premature drug-related deaths globally. The epidemic is not unique to any one country, race, or type of person. And all of these people who die because of drug use have friends and relatives who are gravely and permanently affected by that death. International Overdose Awareness Day gives people the platform to grieve for their lost loved ones while simultaneously advocating for more awareness and resources.
Overdose is a Preventable Tragedy
It’s one thing to be jarred by these statistics and faces behind them. Then, add the fact that overdose is preventable. IOAD takes a stand to force the world to realize that more must be done to save lives.
Improve Prescription Guidelines
Opioids take the lead when it comes to overdose deaths. Most people who struggle with opioid addiction are abusing prescription painkillers — or at least started there. Improving the guidelines for prescribing these medications helps reduce unnecessary exposure and thus the risk of addiction. There are some cases where alternative treatment may even be more beneficial.
Inform About Symptoms
Many people are hesitant to call for emergency medical help because they aren’t sure if it’s needed. They also are afraid to be footed with an unnecessary ambulance charge. It’s important to know what overdose looks like so we aren’t deterred while someone’s life slips away.
There are many overdose warning signs that are specific to the type of drug used. However, general overdose symptoms include:
- Extreme confusion
- Blue tint to the skin
Naloxone is an emergency drug used by first responders to reverse opioid overdose and prevent death. Naloxone is also sold over-the-counter as Narcan. Knowing that the drug exists and learning how to administer it can help reduce death rates. However, it’s important to note that while naloxone can prevent death, it doesn’t cure addiction. A struggling addict will still need treatment to work through their addiction.
International Overdose Awareness Day gives a platform and solidarity to anyone and everyone touched by drug abuse and overdose. But it’s important that we realize every day that the people struggling are not so different from us. Addicts are people and they deserve help.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a drug addiction, our addiction counselors are standing by to help: 855-997-4702*
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