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Overdose Awareness Day: Overdose death toll exceeds road toll

AddictionAt least three Australians die every day from overdose. International Overdose Awareness Day is held on August 31 every year – the last day of winter. It aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related death, especially for those mourning the loss of family and friends. It also spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable. 
This year’s campaign raises awareness of the risks of misusing prescription drugs. In 2012, 83% of all drug-related deaths involved prescription drugs.
Other statistics point to the risk of misusing prescription drugs:

  • In Victoria prescription drug related deaths now outnumber those caused on the road.
  • In 2010, 4.2% of Australians reported using pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs are equally misused by male and female Australians.
  • In 2000 – 2010 4,685 people died from an overdose of opioid drugs; most of these involved prescription medicine.
  • 68% of all drug deaths involve multiple drugs (eg. painkillers, sedatives and alcohol).

International Overdose Awareness Day originated in Melbourne in 2001 and was a Salvation Army initiative. Sally Finn, Manager of Salvation Army Crisis Services, found that there was extreme sorrow amongst friends and family of those who had overdosed. She regularly witnessed their inability to express that sorrow because of the stigma surrounding people who use drugs.
On August 31 2001, Sally organised an event of remembrance to commemorate those who had died from overdose. She decided to distribute silver ribbons thinking that she would need 500 – she gave out 6000.
Today International Overdose Awareness Day is celebrated around the world.

As International Overdose Awareness Day approaches, The Salvation Army encourages the community to keep an eye out for those close to you who are having a hard time, and remain aware of the risks of drugs – prescribed or otherwise.
For more information about International Overdose Awareness Day or overdose basis, visit www.overdoseday.com