Category Archives: Tributes

Taking action on International Overdose Awareness Day

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose death rates worldwide are skyrocketing: of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were due to painkillers, according to a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet. And in the U.S., drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death of Americans between the ages of 35 and 54, killing over 38,000 people in 2010; many of these deaths were caused by prescription opiates.

The painkiller addiction epidemic has also led to a rise in heroin abuse. A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also found that found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.

As this editorial notes, despite the widespread nature of painkiller and heroin abuse, those who are addicted continue to be stigmatized.

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Renewing the fight in the new year

Visiting my brother Pat’s grave on New Year’s Day, I wished for two things. First, for resolution, a sense of peace with Pat’s death. And second, for a sign from him that he would want me to continue the fight.

On both counts, I came away empty-handed.

As I mentioned in Oxy Watchdog’s most recent weekly newsletter (if you haven’t signed up already, you can do so by clicking the link below our video on the right), the end of 2012 saw signs of progress in the fight against prescription drug addiction. But the battle is far from over. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the feeling that all of this is just a drop in the bucket – that even with the wonderful efforts of advocacy organizations like the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse and Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids (to mention just two) and stellar investigative reporting from major media outlets like the Los Angeles Times and CNN, the addiction and deaths continue to mount. On average, one person dies every 19 minutes from an accidental prescription drug overdose, and heroin abuse is on the rise.

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Taking action on International Overdose Awareness Day

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?

Several things:

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.

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Watch it: ‘Overtaken’ documentary

Jodi Barber and Christine Brant of Laguna Niguel, Calif. – who were recently profiled in our Oxy Activists section – produced “Overtaken,” a short documentary educating young adults on the truth about prescription drug addiction and the often deadly consequences pills have. The film is now available to watch online here. Check it out!

Read more about Jodi and Christine here.

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