Every 14 minutes, somebody somewhere dies of a drug overdose.
For the past 16 years, every August 31 has been recognized as a day to publicly honor and remember any loved ones who were stolen by the devastating disease of addiction—International Overdose Awareness Day.
Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and other cities worldwide will come together with memorials services, educational events, ceremonies, and candlelight vigils as a way of mourning and remembering those who were stolen by addiction.
For example, in 2015, in Denver, there was a “Walk of Remembrance and Naloxone Distribution”, where volunteers who had been working with pharmacists and physicians from Denver Health Hospital passed out overdose information and trained people on how to use the anti-overdose medication naloxone.
It is also a day to let anyone currently struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs that their life MATTERS and that they don’t have to give that life up to their disease.
What Can Statistics Tell Us about Addiction and Overdose?
Over 200,000 people worldwide lost their lives to fatal drug overdoses in 2014, and more than 47,000 of those were in America. The problems of drug overdose and addiction have been around for decades:
- In the 15-year period, 2000-2014, 500,000 Americans died from drugs.
- There were one-and-a-half times more fatal drug overdoses in 2014 than deadly car wrecks.
- More than 60% of all fatal overdoses in 2014 involved opioids – 28,647 lost lives.
- 2001-2014, the number of fatalities from prescription opioid pain medications tripled.
- For 15 straight years, 200-2014, there was an increase in the number of deaths due to prescription opioids.
- One out of every 20 people receiving opioid prescriptions will end up abusing them, but that 5% takes one-third of all prescription drugs consumed.
- During that same 14-year timeframe, the number of fatal benzodiazepine overdoses quintupled.
- Heroin fatalities went up six-fold.
- Deaths due to cocaine went up by over 40%.
- Everyone, 35 people in Colorado die from unintentional overdoses of prescription medications.
- Between 2000 and 2011, fatal prescription overdoses in Colorado quadrupled.
- In the three-year period 2011-2013 an average of 7600 Colorado residents a year were seen in emergency rooms because of drug overdoses.
- The vast majority – 86% – of those overdoses were because of prescription opioids.
- Young Colorado adults between the ages of 18 and 25 overdose on prescription opioids twice as often as other age groups.
- In 2000, there were 37 heroin deaths in the state of Colorado, but by 2014, that number had jumped to 151.
- In 2014, heroin was the deadliest illicit drug in the Denver area, killing more people than any other illegal drug.
- Colorado – along with other states in the region – has the highest alcohol-related death rate in the country.
How Can I Observe August 31 if I Have ALREADY Lost Someone to Addiction?
Tragically, although it is too late for your loved one, you can give additional meaning to their life by of deserving International Overdose Awareness Day in a manner that may help someone else.
- Wear a silver pin on your lapel – and when someone asks about it, educate them about the disease of addiction by telling them the story of your lost loved one.
- Speak at a school or an addiction recovery group.
- Pass out literature
- Train others on how to administer the emergency anti-overdose drug naloxone.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
- Start your own anti-addiction blog.
- Attend a remembrance event or host your own.
- Spread awareness on your social media accounts.
By honoring your lost love one in this productive way, you give new and deeper meaning to their life. By sharing their story – and your own – you just may motivate someone to seek the help that they need or convince someone in your same situation to intervene in the life of their addicted family member or friend.
Every time your efforts help someone make the decision to go to drug or alcohol rehab, you have in a very real way saved that person’s life. In some small way, that can serve to mitigate the tragedy of your own loss.