August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day. This day of awareness takes special significance this year, as the United States grapples with an opioid epidemic of monumental proportions. This year, pledge to take action to raise education about the opioid epidemic, advocate for increased treatment access, and curb the overdose rate in our country. Together, we can fight for change that will save the lives of people lost to the opioid epidemic.
Ways to Participate on International Overdose Awareness Day
Perhaps the most important way to participate on International Overdose Awareness Day is to simply avoid silence about this issue. Addiction and drug dependence are often shrouded in secrecy and stigma, preventing people from speaking out about their experiences with drug abuse. We treat drug abusers as “broken” and fail to recognize that addiction affects people of all races, family backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses. Talking about the reasons people abuse drugs and the emotional component behind the addiction can give people the courage to seek help and to fight back against this stigma. Toward this end, social media users are encouraged to use this platform to raise awareness about the impact of overdose on individuals and their families. Use the hashtag #OverdoseAware2016 to share how drug abuse has impacted your life or to generate awareness about the devastation that addiction can cause.
Consider not just taking part in International Overdose Awareness Day, but becoming part of the solution. Take a few minutes of your day to learn about drug abuse. Post an educational piece on social media or simply provide an inspirational quote to show your support and compassion. Highlighting the human side of drug addiction is an important way to reach out to the people who need our help the most.
Taking Action Against Opioid Overdose
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is actively seeking ways to take action against opioid overdose. In particular, the CDC has highlighted the need to reform prescribing practices for opioid medications, take steps to prevent abuse of opioids, and invest in resources that can treat addiction and opioid dependence. These are important first steps to overcome addiction, but we have yet to see a comprehensive federal plan to address these issues.
The United States has the financial means to combat the opioid epidemic. However, we continue to allow political in-fighting to prevent real action from being taken to combat opioid addiction. The partisan politics of Congress have led to bickering over how to spend money to address the opioid epidemic. Many proposals focus heavily on the “law and order” side of the equation. They provide additional resources for law enforcement agencies and tighten punishments for drug-related crimes.
These approaches, however, miss the human side of the equation. We cannot forget that there were more than 28,600 deaths from drug overdoses in 2014, with a majority of those related to opioid use. This means that 28,600 lives were lost, and hundreds of thousands of friends and family members were affected. We cannot afford to lose thousands of our citizens to overdose every year. Instead, we must fight to change the status quo. We need to speak up to let our federal, state, and local officials know that drug abuse is a serious problem that needs serious solutions. Only by joining together to fight against drug abuse can we begin to make changes that truly matter.
This year, let’s support International Overdose Awareness Day by shifting our national priorities to refocus on human life. We need to devote resources to measures that will help the human being behind the addiction. This includes increasing access to education and effective medical detoxification programs combined with individualized mental health care. Only by receiving care from the appropriate professionals in a compassionate, dignified setting can people struggling with drug dependence and addiction get back on track. Federal efforts to curb the opioid epidemic have failed to recognize this side of the equation. Too often, available drug treatments centers are archaic, overcrowded and simply ineffective, what keeps people hopeless, in a revolving door of drug rehabs, and at a higher risk for overdose. We need to offer drug treatment that will reach the whole person. By evaluating people from a physical, emotional, and psychosocial angle, we can provide an individualize and effective program, which provides a real opportunity to achieve long-lasting recovery.
Let us know: how are you participating in International Overdose Awareness Day this year? Pledge to join the Waismann Method Center in remembering those we have lost and working toward a solution to help those at risk.
Congress Is Voting on an Inadequate Opioid Bill, New York Times. Retrieved on 08/30/2016.
Overdose Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. Retrieved on 08/30/2016.
Get Invovled, International Overdose Awareness Day. Retrieved on 08/30/2016.