From one single event more than two decades ago to 700+ events globally in 2021, International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is ramping up again. Creative and meaningful projects are being planned around the world, as we come together to shift the dial on overdose and end this crisis.
IOAD is really important to do two things: improve community understanding and response so we see less overdoses in the future, and also to provide an opportunity for people impacted by overdose to grieve without shame or stigma
“IOAD is really important to do two things: improve community understanding and response so we see less overdoses in the future, and also to provide an opportunity for people impacted by overdose to grieve without shame or stigma,” explains Penington Institute CEO, John Ryan.
“People are dying from overdose every day and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In Australia, overdose deaths have far exceeded the road toll for many years, yet we don’t talk about it nearly enough. Our challenge, as a community, is to prevent the future loss of life. IOAD provides an opportunity to actually talk about the issue, and I’m really encouraged by the diversity of events we’re seeing being planned for 2022.”
Tasmania’s Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council (ATDC) is asking people across the state to fold paper origami cranes for IOAD, in a beautiful display of Senbazaru – the Japanese art of folding 1,000 paper cranes to make wishes come true. Asking the community to participate in a state-wide Senbazaru, the ATDC aims to raise awareness and pay tribute to Tasmanians lost to overdose, which is sadly more than one person each week.
Back on mainland Australia, Rotary Mount Gambier West and The Limestone Coast Drug Action Team in South Australia are hosting their second IOAD Blue Lake Vigil with public speakers and a minute of silence to remember those lost to overdose, support families and friends impacted by overdose, and actively reduce stigma regarding overdose.
In IOAD’s birthplace of Melbourne, cohealth is hosting the Beyond the Stigma Laneway Light Exhibition. From 25–31 August a city laneway will be lit up with images and artworks created by people who have a lived experience of drug dependence, either current or past, personal, or indirect. The project aims to highlight the stigma associated with drug use, promote greater compassion and care for people who are drug dependent and create conversations about health-based responses to drug use in the community.
Outside of Australia, momentum is also gathering. The West Africa Drug Policy Network (WADPN) is partnering with Focus GH to lead #LetsWalk2EndOverdose in Accra, Ghana. While across the Atlantic, people will be walking together at events across North America, from Abbotsford in British Columbia to Casa Grande in Arizona and Conroe in Texas. Butterflies will be released in Rockaway, New Jersey and balloons will be launched in Dolton, Illinois.
Everyone who is part of the growing IOAD movement has the same goal: to end the overdose crisis. How this is done depends on each context and the unique challenges facing each community. Whichever way you intend to mark IOAD this year, remember that your participation does make a difference.