August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day and it is a global event that began in 2001. It aims to raise awareness of the impact overdosing has on our country and families across the world, as well as reducing the stigma of drug-related deaths. International Overdose Awareness Day hopes to spread the message that overdosing is preventable. Substance abuse does not discriminate and impacts the lives of thousands each year. August 31st provides a day to remember those that have lost their life due to overdoses as well as sending the message that this is preventable and that “stigmatizing people who use drugs needs to stop!” (“International Overdose Awareness day,” n.d.).

An overdose occurs when your body is unable to cope with the amount of drug or drugs put into your system. All types of drugs can cause overdoses and there are specific signs and symptoms to be aware of. Depressants and opioids depress normal functions such as breathing and heart rate and can ultimately cause both systems to shut down. Although people do not think of alcohol when they think of overdose, alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning and various other reactions that can stop your breathing and even stop your heart. Stimulants such as speed and ice increase your risk of a heart attack, stroke, seizure or drug related psychotic episodes.

When educating on overdoses it is imperative that individuals are aware of tolerance and half-life. As someone utilizes a drug more frequently, they develop a tolerance to it. If an individual abstains from taking the drug for a period of time and returns to using the same amount, it can lead to an overdose. Half-life refers to the time it takes the drug to reduce to half of its strength of the original dose. If an individual is unaware of the half-life of their drug of choice and takes more of this drug, it can also result in an overdose.

If you are ever present when a drug overdose occurs, please call 911 immediately. Don’t ignore the signs and reach out for help as soon as possible. Naloxone/Narcan is a medication used to combat the symptoms of an opioid overdose, however, it is only temporary. An individual who has overdosed and is given naloxone must be taken to the hospital as soon as possible.

“International Overdose Awareness Day is an opportunity to remember loved ones lost to overdose. Our message is simple- the tragedy of overdose death is preventable and more must be done to save the lives” (“International Overdose Awareness day,” n.d.).

If you are looking for additional information on National Overdose Awareness Day or are interested in holding an event or participating in an event, please go to and you will find resources and additional information.

By Kelsey Russell, BSW, Intern



International Overdose Awareness Day. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2019, from