International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), held each year on August 31st, is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose; remember those who have died; and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind. The campaign spreads the message about the tragedy of drug overdose death and that drug overdose is preventable.
Overdose touches people and communities in many ways. Lives are altered by overdose from family and friends grieving the loss of a loved one; workers in healthcare and support services extending strength and compassion; or spontaneous first responders who selflessly assume the role of life saver. Overdose Awareness Day raises an awareness of the hidden impact of overdose, promoting education of overdose response and reaching out.
One in 7 Americans reports experiencing a substance use disorder (SUD). According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Every day, more than 100 people die from drug overdoses.” There is not one single driving factor that leads to addiction. Some people may use drugs to help cope with stress, trauma, or to help with mental health issues. Some may develop opioid use disorder after misusing opioids they were prescribed by doctors.
Recognizing an overdose can be difficult. If you aren’t sure, it is best to treat the situation like an overdose — you could save a life. Call 911 immediately. Administer naloxone, if it’s available. Naloxone can reverse an overdose from opioids. Often given as a nasal spray, naloxone is safe and easy to use. Do not leave the person alone. Signs of an overdose may include small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”; falling asleep or loss of consciousness; slow, weak, or no breathing; choking or gurgling sounds; limp body; cold and/or clammy skin; discolored skin (especially in lips and nails).
Addiction is a disease, not a character flaw. Overcoming a SUD is not as simple as resisting the temptation to take drugs through willpower alone. Recovery may involve medication, to help with cravings and withdrawal, as well as different forms of therapy. Finding the right treatment option can be the key to a successful recovery journey.
The Monroe County Safe Community Coalition will be recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day in a variety of ways. The 2023 Monroe County theme is: “When we recover loudly, we keep others from dying quietly.” Purple flags (the color for overdose awareness) will be placed at Gillett Park in Tomah, and at the Municipal Building Lawn, in Sparta, on August 30th and through September, for Overdose Awareness Day and Recovery Awareness Month. Each location will have 120 purple flags, which represents the number of overdose deaths in Wisconsin in one month.
If you would like to write a name on a flag, in the memory of someone you have lost to an overdose, you can email the name to firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by for the event on August 31st from 3-6 p.m. During the event, there will be booths available that support recovery in our community. Booths will be provided by: Monroe County Safe Community Coalition, Next Steps for Change, Department of Health, UW Extension, and Sober Eyes.
Information will be provided on Harm Reduction, Proper Disposal of Medications, and more. Narcan and Fentanyl test strips will also be available. In addition, a new memorial rock garden will be placed at the Monroe County Municipal Building in Sparta soon. We will have a table set up at both locations, where you can decorate a rock in memory, of those who died from an overdose.
“I have wanted to create an event that would bring an awareness to what the excessive use of drugs is doing in our communities and how beautiful, young people are dying every day, from drug overdoses. I lost my son in 2016, from a heroin/fentanyl overdose, at 17 years old. I do not want to see anyone else lose a loved one to drugs,” said Lisa McCormick, Chair-Monroe County Safe Community Coalition.
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