MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Department of Mental Health pauses to commemorate August 31 as International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), a global event to remember those who have died from a drug overdose.
Every 12 minutes, someone dies from an opioid-related overdose. Ninety percent of opioid overdoses are accidental. One in four people has been directly impacted by the opioid crisis; either they know someone with an opioid use disorder, know someone who has died from an overdose or they have an opioid use disorder themselves.
According to data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths were up 35 percent in Alabama in 2020 compared to 2019. Alabama is not alone; the national average saw an increase of 30.9 percent. The stress of the pandemic may have influenced even higher rates of substance abuse in communities statewide and nationally.
Developing an opioid use disorder is not a choice someone makes, nor is it a moral failing. It’s a long-term relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use despite harmful consequences. People who take opioid pain relievers for too long or in doses too large are more at risk of developing an opioid use disorder and more likely to die of a drug overdose. Additionally, people with an opioid use disorder often encounter stigma, causing feelings of shame, isolation and fear, which prevents them from seeking help early on.
IOAD day serves as a day to raise awareness, not only about drug and substance abuse issues, but educating community members and providing resources to battle both addiction and overdose throughout the year. To recognize the national event, mental health, substance use disorder groups across the state are holding numerous events to remember lives lost, celebrate the survivors of overdose and empower others to seek the help they may need.
What can you do for yourself or for loved ones?
Be trained to administer Narcan for an overdose
• Know what medicines you are taking – Ask!
• Never mix your medications
• Find the nearest substance use disorder treatment center
• Get a drug disposal envelope
• Recognize the signs of an overdose
• Find a disposal location near you and learn about other takeback options
• Request an opioid warn-me label
• Talk to young adults and children about the risks of opioids and other painkillers
What can you do to honor this day?
• Recognize the signs of an opioid overdose
• Hold a candlelight vigil or a display of empty hats or shoes to represent the number of
lives lost in the community
• Offer an educational program, such as one related to preventing opioid use, in partnership
with a local organization
• Provide a safe space for telling the stories of overdose victims
• Add the name of a loved one who died of an opioid overdose to the Celebrating Lost
Loved Ones map
• Research state and federal legislation that addresses opioid overdose prevention and
write to your representative
Call the Alabama Department of Mental Health at 334-242-3962 or visit https://mh.alabama.gov/prevention/ and https://mh.alabama.gov/substance-abuse-treatmentservices/ to find addiction treatment services and linkage to community-based overdose prevention resources available.