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International Overdose Awareness Day—Remembering Those Lost to Addiction

International Overdose Awareness Day—Remembering Those Lost to Addiction

Every August 31 since 2001 has been set aside as a day to publicly memorialize lost loved ones who were taken by the illness of addiction—International Overdose Awareness Day. Boise, New York, Los Angeles, other cities around the world will unite with memorials, vigils, and educational events. The hope is to raise public awareness, so this tragedy might finally be ended. It is also a day to send a heartfelt message to anyone currently battling any substance abuse disorder—the misuse of prescription opioid painkillers, addiction to illicit street drugs, or even alcoholism – “Drug overdoses ARE preventable, and no one should ever have to die because of the and. YOUR LIFE MATTERS, and there IS help and hope available.”

Overdose Statistics Paint a Tragic Picture

The loss of life around the world due to addiction shows that this a GLOBAL epidemic –

  • In 2014, more than 200,000 people died around the world because of fatal drug overdoses.
  • Over 47,000 of those deaths were here in the United States of America.
  • 2000-2014, almost half a million people in America died from drug overdoses.
  • In 2014, there were 1.5 times more deaths due to drug overdoses in America than deaths from car crashes.
  • In 2014, 61% of all drug overdose deaths involved some kind of opioid – 28,647 deaths.
  • 2001-2014, there was more than a 3-fold increase in the number of fatalities from prescription opioid painkillers.
  • 2000-2014, there was a 15-year increase year-over-year in overdose deaths that involved prescription opioid painkillers
  • Approximately 5% of people who receive prescriptions for opioid medications will abuse them, but they receive 32% of all opioid prescriptions.
  • During the 2001-2014 timeframe, the number of fatal benzodiazepine overdoses increased 5-fold.
  • Heroin deaths skyrocketed 6-fold.
  • Fatal cocaine overdoses increased by 42%.
  • In 2015, physicians in Idaho wrote 1.5 MILLION prescriptions for opioid painkillers, according to the Idaho Board of Pharmacy – nearly one for every single person in the state.
  • In 2015, State House Bill 108 – the Good Samaritan Law – went into effect, which allows the family and friends of substance abusers to obtain the anti-overdose drug naloxone.

What Can I Do If I Have a Friend or Family Member Who Is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol?

If you love someone who is abusing ANY substance, the most important thing you can do is INTERVENE – whether on your own or with the help of a trained interventionist. Addiction is a chronic illness that is progressive and invariably fatal if not treated arrested early. Intervention has proven to be the most effective tool families have at their disposal to spur their addicted loved one into admitting they may have a problem and may need to seek professional help – typically, an inpatient drug rehabilitation program. When your loved one is in a rehab program, continue to work on YOURSELF, so you can be a strong part of their support system when they are once again ready to face the world. Remember, you can’t be there for anyone if you’re not there for yourself first. Some ways that you might ready yourself to support them might include:

  • Educate yourself about the disease of addiction – find out why it is considered to be a diagnosable illness, rather than a moral weakness or failing on their part.
  • Seek professional counseling for yourself for such addiction-related problems as codependency, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Find out what role YOU may have played in the development/worsening of their addiction. No, you didn’t cause their addiction, but certain behaviors on your part could have ENABLED it.
  • Create your own support system by attending 12-Step fellowship meetings specifically for people who use lives have been negatively impacted by someone else’s drinking and/or drug use – Al-Anon for Narc-Anon, for example.
  • Set – and ENFORCE – personal boundaries between you and the substance abuser. If they are earnestly working a program of recovery, be there to support them, help them, and cheer them on.

If, on the other hand, they are not in recovery, you need to distance yourself so they have to face the natural consequences of their own actions, even if it means that they are arrested and jailed. Sometimes, people only get help because they are ordered by the Court. If you have already lost someone to the disease of addiction, use each August 31 – International Overdose Awareness Day – as a way to rededicate yourself to battling this devastating illness. Find your inner voice and learn to speak out against drug addiction – start a blog, give a speech at an addiction recovery group or at a school, or just wear a silver pin and share your story with anyone who mentions it. Here is a great article about healing from a loss:  Every time you are able to convince someone to get go to rehab or get help – you have saved another life, and there is not another more profound way to honor your lost loved one.