By Randal L. Dabbs, MD, FACEP, FAAFP, TeamHealth Co-Founder, President, Practice Development, and Executive Sponsor, TeamHealth Substance Use Work Group
Recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day
International Overdose Awareness Day is an initiative of the Penington Institute that is held on August 31 each year. This day is meant to:
- Give individuals an opportunity to publicly mourn their loved ones who died from overdose.
- Remove the stigma of addiction.
- Distribute educational resources.
- Stimulate discussions around policy and action.
- Publicly inform people currently experiencing addiction that their lives matter (1).
IOA Day is a direct consequence of the continuing devastation that substance misuse has had on the lives of so many people. Every person is touched by this relentless disease which does not appear to be slowing down and is, in fact, getting worse.
Based on provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. drug overdose deaths topped 100,000 in 2022 (2). It is the highest annual number recorded.
Statistics from the CDC
- 80 of drug overdose deaths involve opioids.
- 60% of people who died from an overdose had an opportunity to be linked to care before their overdose (4-5).
The challenge, but also the opportunity, is that SUD and opioid overdose are preventable.
The stigma of SUD remains strong! Biases toward people with this disease prevents them from seeking treatment; and without treatment, the outcome may be fatal. If it were your child who suffered from addiction, and presented with an overdose, would the stigma still exist? Likely not!
Patients with addiction have a relapsing neurobiological disease. Focus on the disease rather than the substance or the act of the misuse. Help keep the patient alive until they are ready to stop. Be respectful and kind and empathetic. Link them to community resources and provide education on safe/healthy living habits. Likewise, when a patient is ready to recover, start medication-assisted treatment and connect them with long-term recovery resources.
Beating the disease of addiction is the single greatest challenge your patient will ever face. International Overdose Awareness Day brings to light the ravaging effects addiction has on the lives of our patients and their families and motivates us to give the patient every chance to live free of substance use.
TeamHealth believes every human being is valuable. We mourn with those that have lost a loved one from an overdose. If you need assistance with substance use disorder, please call your physician or SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP.
- Facts and Recommendations for Health Professionals and Health Care Systems
- Facts and Recommendations for Individuals and Families