International Overdose

Awareness Day


...a day to acknowledge individual loss and family grief for people who have suffered overdose.

August 31

Overdose Awareness Day is, at its heart, an opportunity to commemorate the death of someone loved, with pride.


Whether the person was a friend, a family member, or a life partner, the shock and sadness when someone dies of overdose is equal to any loss felt when a loved-one passes away. However, it is a grief that, in today's world, is complicated by the stigma of drug use, by the hatred that stigma generates.


As well as the possibility that an overdose ends in death, there are people living with permanent injuries as a direct result of overdosing. The plight of people suffering the ramifications of a non-fatal overdose are also recognised on this day.


Overdose Awareness Day provides an opportunity for the community to acknowledge that drugs and the consequence of overdose are part of all our lives, and that there are repercussions from the death and injury of people which are felt across every socio-economic and cultural span of the world.


Consequently, it is vital that we act as a community when we acknowledge this massive and abrupt misfortune to families and individuals, and that the hand we extend is one of understanding and compassion to all who have been affected. This will be the key to all our actions as we try to lower the harms in regard to drug use, including death. Thus, in order to accomplish this, we must first accept that the practice of engaging law enforcement to deal with a social and health conundrum directly creates our responses to overdose.


In a world that divides drugs into those that are legal and those that aren't, we must reflect on the fact that many deaths and permanent injuries could be prevented by abolishing prohibition. To do anything less is a waste of resourses and time. Punitive measures, as we have witnessed, do not arrest harm, and yet, choices that would help save lives and lower harms are available to us. From the provision of naloxone to peers and family members, to supervised injecting facilities and early treatment, the options to move forward with this are many. Any reason not to support these life saving measures will have risen from judgements often embedded in prejudice. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us to seek knowledge before we voice an opinion. Providing the best possible medical care to a group of people, should never be compromised for any reason and certainly not because of views we hold about their behaviour.


So, if we are serious about lowering the high toll caused by overdose we must create discussion and education, not just in the cities but in the rural areas. We must break down barriers of fear and prejudice all around the world.


Since its inception, Overdose Awareness Day has been driven by the stories of those who are deceased; stories told by partners, parents, children and friends, all of whose pain runs a gauntlet of sorrow and upset.


Overdose Day is a day to remember loved ones without fear of judgement. It is a day to cast off the burden of a secret, to relinquish guilt, and to celebrate the life of the person lost, and the joy they gave to us. It is a day that acknowledges that no matter how the path of life was followed, it should not be diminished ever because of judgements we might make over aspects of that life. And so, we release a symbol, the silver badge, into the community to signify that overdose is a cause of death and injury that for many means a loss of someone who can never be replaced.

Sally J Finn

Founder, International Overdose Awareness Day