Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose death rates in the U.S. have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher: in 2009, more than 37,000 people died from drug overdoses, and many of these deaths were caused by prescription painkiller opiate drugs, such as OxyContin.
As this editorial notes, today is a difficult day for those who have lost loved ones to drug addiction.
So, what can be done?
Share your personal story. Unless you live on an island in the middle of the ocean, I guarantee you know someone who has struggled or is currently struggling with addiction. Fear and shame keep too many of these stories hidden. Start talking. End the silence. My brother Pat was addicted to prescription painkillers and later heroin, but he kept much of his addiction hidden from his family because he felt ashamed. After he died of a heroin overdose in 2009, I found some of his journals and learned how deeply he struggled with feelings that he had let us down. I wish I had known this before he died. I wish he wasn’t the reason behind this website.
Educate yourself and others. Here’s a list of resources to get you started. Learn more about what to do in the event of an opiate overdose here (courtesy of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), or watch the video at the bottom of the page. Or contact The DOPE Project.
Donate. There are hundreds of organizations and foundations addressing drug addiction. Why not put your money towards something that actually reverses the effects of an opiate overdose? Naloxone literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. In the past decade, more than 50,000 people have been trained to recognize and respond to an overdose and given naloxone rescue kits resulting in over 10,000 overdose rescues. Donate to the Overdose Awareness Day Naloxone Fund here.
Support Good Samaritan laws, which aim to reduce overdose deaths by protecting people who call for medical help for overdose victims from being prosecuted for personal possession of drugs, paraphernalia or underage drinking. Even though opiate overdoses are on the rise, many people don’t call 911 out of fear of arrest and prosecution, and instead rely on ineffective methods of reviving victims. Nine states – New York, Illinois, Washington State, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut – have already enacted such laws, and similar measures are currently pending in several others.
Remember. There will be candlelight vigils, rallies, fundraisers and other events in cities around the country, including San Francisco, Minneapolis, Denver, Palm Springs, New York City, Los Angeles, and San Diego. A full list of national events is available here. Send Oxy Watchdog pictures of your loved one, and we’ll honor them on our Memory Wall.
Thanks for your support.
Erin Marie Daly, Founder, Oxy Watchdog