Every year, on August 31, a worldwide overdose awareness movement is held to increase awareness of overdosing and the many lives it continues to destroy. International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) began in Australia, as a way to spread the word throughout communities about the risk of overdose. The movement has since spread worldwide. IOAD events are scheduled throughout New Hampshire, New England, and the United States.
This day has become increasingly more relevant due to the growing opioid epidemic, which continues to result in an overwhelming number of critical injuries and fatalities all over the world. In addition to being about bringing awareness to the issue of overdose, the day is also about addressing the grief felt by friends and family members of victims of the epidemic.
A National Emergency
According to a report presented by a special commission for the White House, which noted, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” the White House recently declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency. This was done in hopes of securing better funding from Congress to help slow the epidemic.
More than 100 Americans are killed every day by the opioid epidemic. Not only is it impacting the lives of the victims and their families, but it is also affecting businesses throughout the country. According to the CDC, more than 28,000 people died from opioid overdose in 2014, and more than 50% of the deaths were caused by prescription opioids. Heroin-related deaths have also more than tripled since 2010, with more than 10,500 people dying from heroin in 2014.
New Hampshire Opioid Epidemic
In 2015, New Hampshire was the second most impacted state, trailing behind only West Virginia, of states facing the highest rates of death due to drug overdose. NH’s rate at the time was 34.3 overdoses per 100,000. New Hampshire also ranked 11th on the list of states with the biggest drug problems, preceded by Michigan at 10, and Massachusetts at 9.
Legal and Illegal Opioids
Opioids refer to a specific class of drugs, typically used for relieving symptoms of pain. Though frequently prescribed by doctors for a variety of pain levels, the risks and side effects can be quite severe. You may have heard of some of the more commonly prescribed types of opioids, which include oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone.
Heroin is illegal but, despite this fact, its use continues to increase throughout the country among both men and women, in a variety of age groups, and at every income level. Though Fentanyl is available legally, via prescription for severe pain, it can also can be obtained illegally, and is 50 times stronger than pure heroin.
Fighting the Epidemic
Because of the epidemic, prescribing of opioids is being more closely monitored and lawmakers are doing what they can to decrease the production of illegal opioids. In addition, society is slowly beginning to learn more about drug use and addiction, and how to address it as a disorder rather than a bad habit or evidence of poor character.
IOAD aims to spread this message as far as possible, to raise awareness and help create more effective treatment options for those affected. Supporters are encouraged to wear purple or silver clothing or ribbons on this day, as silver is the international color for awareness of overdose and its effects. Purple is the international color for opiate addiction awareness.
Here are a few links to help you get educated about overdose, and to help you spread awareness to others in your community: