Needle and Syringe Program staff are being urged to put their support behind International Overdose Awareness Day that takes place on 31 August, as research shows deaths from accidental overdose in Australia have soared by 61 per cent in a decade.
Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2016, complied by Penington Institute, found deaths from overdose reached 1,137 in 2014, up from 705 deaths in 2004. Most at risk are older men living in rural Australia, particularly Aboriginal men.
Rural and regional Australia has experienced an 83 per cent increase in deaths in the six years between 2008 and 2014 and Aboriginal communities have had to cope with a 141 per cent increase in the decade from 2004, compared to a 45 per cent rise in the non-Aboriginal community.
Prescription opioids, rather than illicit drugs, were responsible for most of the deaths.
Penington Institute CEO John Ryan says International Overdose Awareness Day is about tackling the stigma around drug use and raising awareness of overdose prevention.
“There are a whole lot of grieving families suffering in silence because they feel they can’t talk about overdose, and because they don’t talk about it we continue to have this clichéd view of who is impacted by drug addiction and overdose. It also means there’s no natural community to push for a policy response,” John says.
The International Overdose Awareness Day website displays heart breaking messages from people who have lost family members and friends to drug use.
Organising an event in your community
International Overdose Awareness day is a time to reflect on those lives lost through overdose. It provides an opportunity to support those left behind, share memories and provide overdose prevention training.
Each year at the Needle and Syringe Program and Primary Health clinic in Dandenong an event is held to focus on overdose prevention, education and support. We have previously held a community BBQ to share the message that overdose is preventable with the wider community. In 2016 we held an event to bring together services and clients with a focus on remembering people who we’ve lost to overdose. We have tree of remembrance onsite with messages from those that have lost friends, family and loved ones.
The planning is hard work, but to see communities, services and clients supporting one another, reducing the risk of overdose and generating a cohesive approach is definitely worth it.
Theresa Lewis Leevy
Team Leader, Monash Health Dandenong
NSPs can support the message that overdose deaths are preventable by planning an event and sharing it on the International Overdose Awareness Day website. You can also advertise your event on social media with the hashtag #OverdoseAware2017 and download and display promotional materials such as factsheets and posters – available in a number of languages.
See www.overdoseday.com for details.
– Kate Robertson