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International Overdose Awareness Day

 

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

August 31                                                                                                                                    SJ Finn reading a poem here for remembrance 2020         

                                                                                                                                                    For footage of Sally J Finn discussing IOAD go here

At its heart, Overdose Awareness Day is a day that commemorates the death of a loved-one.

WLPOT Finn 4 

Whether the person had been 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. It is, however, a grief that in today's world is complicated by the stigma of drug use, by the isolation and shame that stigma generates.

 

Acknowledgement is not just consigned to those who have lost their life. As well as the possibility that an overdose ends in death, there are people living with permanent injuries as a direct result of overdosing. It is the plight of these people who are suffering from the ramifications of a non-fatal overdose that are also recognised on this day.

 

Intrinsic to this, the breadth of Overdose Awareness Day provides an opportunity for the community to acknowledge that drugs and the possibility that they can cause overdose are a part of all our lives. Suffice to say, repercussions from the death and injury of people from overdose are felt across every socio-economic and cultural span of the world.

 

With this in mind, I believe that as a community we are sufficiently mature to acknowledge the massive and abrupt misfortune to families and individuals. And as we reach out, the hand we extend must be one of understanding and compassion to all who have been affected, because this will be the key to our actions as we try to lower the harms in regard to drug use, including death. Thus, in order to accomplish a turnaround in the high rates of overdose, we must first accept that the judgement we might place on someone's choice to partake in the consumption of drugs contributes directly to the high rates of overdose.

 

And 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 the barriers of fear and prejudice all around the world and examine the practice of engaging law enforcement to deal with a social and health conundrum, because in a world that divides drugs into those that are legal and those that are not, we must recognise that many deaths and permanent injuries could be prevented by bringing all drugs under the umbrella of regulation. Only then will it be truly possible to talk openly about the properties of types of drugs in a nuanced and truthful manner. To do anything less is a waste of resources and time.

 

Consequently, we have both the means and the knowledge to afford change. From the provision of naloxone to the opening of supervised injecting facilities, from expanding the amount of treatment services and keeping people free of becoming criminalised, the options to move forward are many. And, it is through the stories of those who are deceased - stories that are told by partners, parents, children and friends - that our greatest source of guidance can be evoked.

 

Overdose Day, therefore, will not stray from its purpose as a day to remember loved-ones without fear of judgement. It is a day that aims to cast off the burden of a secret and to relinquish guilt. It is a day to celebrate the life of the person lost and acknowledge the joy they gave to us. It is a day that recognises that no matter how the path of life was followed a person should not be diminished because of judgements we might make over aspects of that person's 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 the loss of someone who can never be replaced.

Sally J Finn

Founder of International Overdose Awareness Day