August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. With today’s opioid epidemic, this initiative to spread global awareness feels more important than ever. Many of us know someone who struggles with drug addiction. In fact, the odds of knowing at least one addict in today’s climate seem greater than the odds of knowing none at all. And if you’re reading this, we assume that you didn’t stumble here by accident. Whether you struggle with addiction yourself or simply care about somebody who does, the mission to spread awareness may very well speak to you.
Unfortunately, addiction often leaves both sufferers and their families feeling powerless. This especially rings true when the disease claims the life of someone we love. We find ourselves experiencing deep regret, wondering what we might have said or done to save them. Despite the iron-strong grip that addiction holds over its victims, overdose deaths always feel preventable.
We cannot save those we’ve lost. But we can use Overdose Awareness Day as an opportunity to honor their memory. In so doing, we just might spread a message that resonates with those who still suffer. If we can prevent even one more overdose from occurring, we owe it to ourselves and those we love to at least try.
Of course, not everyone knows where to start. And in truth, the best answer to this question will generally vary from person to person. But if you want to participate in Overdose Awareness Day and find yourself uncertain what to do, the following ideas might help.
With the rising rates of addiction and overdose deaths constantly making headlines, we sometimes take for granted that everyone should understand the severity of the issue. However, a story’s publication does not ensure its readership. Those who do not immediately identify a personal connection with a story will often write it off. Some non-addicts find it difficult to empathize with sufferers of a disease they cannot understand. Knowing only that it began with a choice, they assume it remains a choice today. Others go out of their way to avoid empathy due to resentments against addicts and alcoholics they’ve previously known.
Overdose Awareness Day necessitates the spread of education to build compassion and understanding. Let people know about the 137% rise in overdose deaths since the start of the millennium. Or the fact that the rate of opioid overdoses in 2009 nearly doubled by 2015. Remind them that, with average ICU costs rising nearly $40,000 since 2012, this problem affects all of us. This rise in cost stems from treatments such as dialysis, something applicable to more than just overdose victims. Those who don’t care for first-hand experience and anecdotal evidence on the terrors of this disease might care a bit more once they realize their own health and finances are at risk.
When sharing these facts, you might take measures to increase their visibility. If you’re sharing on social media, whether sharing statistics or experiences, don’t forget to use the hashtag #OverdoseAware2017 on your posts. And if you use Twitter, follow @OverdoseDay for more information on the current overdose epidemic.
Share Your Story
Even though some individuals respond more to statistics than stories, we could easily say the opposite for many. Statistics do not resonate with people’s hearts. On the other hand, your own experiences might. Whether you are a family member of someone who was lost to addiction or a recovering addict who’s tired of saying goodbye to the friends you’ve made in recovery, use Overdose Awareness Day to let people know how their loss has affected you.
This may sound depressing, but tribute does not require mourning. Do not just share of death, but also of life. Let people know about your loved one outside of their addiction. With the way many people stigmatize addicts, they forget about the kind-hearted, complex people behind the disease. But were even one of our lost loved ones to continue living today, there’s no telling how different the world could be. With every death, we lose someone with the potential to help others. This is why we feel especially disheartened when overdose coincides with relapse after a long period of clean time.
We do not expect sharing your story to be easy. It takes great courage to revisit sad memories, especially in a culture that often looks down its nose toward addicts. But if you can find the courage to speak out on Overdose Awareness Day, you just might help someone. And remember, it only takes one life to change the world. If your words reach even a single person, you spare their family and friends the torment of suffering their loss. They can lead better lives, leading to a ripple effect as they touch others within their own circles.
Not to mention, you help build solidarity with those who already know this pain. We all need support, and Overdose Awareness Day allows us to build it.
Fund the Cause
Spreading awareness requires resources. The official Overdose Awareness Day website offers tips on forming events and hosting Twitter chats that help inform people of the dangers surrounding this disease. Naturally, they also engage in such efforts themselves. But as you might imagine, events and outreach efforts cost money.
That’s why you might consider donating to their cause. They work not to spread fear, but hope. Help them show people that, as terrible as this epidemic may be, there is always a way out from beneath the crushing weight of addiction. Overdose Awareness Day obviously forms their largest effort, but this organization does not operate like your local Halloween shop. They work year-round to continue aggregating information that can help people. Even just a few extra bucks can help them to continue doing that.
Emphasize the Solution
In order to spread hope, we must emphasize the message that these deaths are preventable. One cannot simply walk into a school, tell children that drugs kill you, and expect all of those children to stay sober for the remainder of their lifetime. Hard facts and experiences require widespread dissemination, so that we may help as many people as possible reach a point of understanding. But in doing so, we cannot resort to fear-mongering. We must never lose the message that those seeking reprieve from their afflictions can readily find it.
This Overdose Awareness Day, speak to the light at the end of the tunnel. Let people know that they can make a better life for themselves. Whether you emphasize treatment, 12-step programs, the value of social support or any other recovery tool, let people know that it works. If you practice recovery yourself, then make sure to touch on this when sharing your story today.
And to those who still struggle with drug dependency: Overdose Awareness Day presents you with a wonderful opportunity to turn things around. If you are interested in seeking treatment, or if you simply need suggestions that may help you locate other resources, do not hesitate to contact us today. Our thoughts and prayers reside with you on this day of hope and remembrance.