On August 31st, people around the world will participate in International Overdose Awareness Day to raise awareness on the drug epidemic’s toll on society. This day is devoted to highlighting the gravity of the problem, helping to destigmatize the disease of addiction, and encouraging people to seek help in their struggle with addiction. International Overdose Awareness Day also provides an opportunity for people who have lost loved ones to mourn and share their stories of addiction.

According to the United Nations’ World Drug Report (2017), about 250 million people, 5 percent of the global adult population, used drugs at least once in 2015, of which 29.5 million people are estimated to suffer from substance abuse disorders. It was estimated there were 207,400 drug-related deaths (43.5 deaths per million people), of which between a third and half (69,000-104,000) were overdose deaths. In the United States, the current overdose death rate suggests nearly 60,000 people will die from drug overdose in 2017.

The statistics are especially staggering for the United States, as the country has about 6 percent of the world’s population but greater than 50 percent of the world’s overdose deaths. Raising awareness of impact of the disease of addiction will contribute to reducing the stigma associated with addiction and help individuals with substance use disorders recognize that they are fighting a disease and that there is help available.

As an addiction specialist and medical director of the Center for Network Therapy, I would like to share four unique ways for individuals to participate in International Overdose Awareness Day:

  • Help Reduce Stigma – Addiction is a disease and it should be treated as one— it is very much a chronic illness like diabetes, characterized by relapses. Families and individuals affected by the disease should be able to talk about it openly and get the best help possible. So, educate people on what you know about addiction and create forums where people can openly share their experiences—failures, as well as successes.
  • Be Supportive – Make sure your loved ones know that you will empathize with them if they talk to you about their struggle, help and support them, and help them find treatment options. At the Center for Network Therapy, I see patients nervous to talk to their families about their struggle, but being open will only make it easier for people to talk to you and get the help they need in a timely manner.
  • Provide Inspiration – If you are not directly impacted by addiction, stimulate conversation on Twitter and Facebook to get people talking about the impact of drugs on their lives, what made them seek treatment, what worked for them, how they found a way out, and how they are living enriching lives. Individuals suffering from the disease of addiction need to know that there is a way out, there is hope, and there is a beautiful life without drugs. I feel that creating a community where people want to share their stories can only benefit others battling addiction. 
  • Host an Event- If you can, get people to come out and show their support for families and friends who have lost a love one to drug overdose. Set up a table with literature from your local chapter of the NCADD or drug court at the library (with appropriate permission) or a busy street corner of your town. It will provide concerned citizens and families affected by substance abuse with a rallying point.

Make sure to wear silver, the official color of International Overdose Awareness Day, on August 31st to show your support for people suffering from substance abuse. For more information on substance abuse dependency, addiction and treatment please go to www.RecoveryCNT.com.

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