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Recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day

By Randal L. Dabbs, MD, FACEP, FAAFP, TeamHealth Co-Founder, President, Practice Development, and Executive Sponsor, TeamHealth Substance Use Work Group


International Overdose Awareness Day is an initiative of the Penington Institute that is held on August 31 each year. This day is meant to:

  1. Give individuals an opportunity to publicly mourn their loved ones who died from overdose
  2. Remove the stigma of addiction
  3. Distribute educational resources
  4. Stimulate discussions around policy and action
  5. Publicly inform people currently experiencing addiction that their lives matter (1)

Unfortunately, substance misuse has likely touched you in some aspect of your life. You may have had a loved one or a patient die; you may be desperately trying to help someone enter or maintain recovery; or you may be mourning the absence of someone struggling with addiction that is still living but is no longer in your life. You may even be personally struggling to fight your own addiction. The point is: addiction is a disease that can affect anyone, and it is important to know that OVERDOSE is PREVENTABLE.

Substance misuse impacts us all.

Based on provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 93,000 drug overdose deaths in 2020 (2). It is the highest annual number recorded, and the nation’s overdose epidemic has continued to escalate throughout 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic (3).

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 stigma of addiction is a major reason individuals do not seek help.

Every individual must be treated as a patient with a relapsing neurobiological disease rather than focusing on the substance or the act of misusing. Even if the person struggling with misuse is not ready to stop, they must be treated with respect, linked to community resources, and provided education on safe/healthy living habits. Likewise, when a patient is ready to recover, starting medication-assisted treatment and connecting them with long-term recovery resources are great options that a clinician can provide.

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 it 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.