September 2013

Overseas momentum for International Overdose Awareness Day

The momentum for International Overdose Awareness Day continued to build overseas. The standout achievement in 2012 was the involvement of White House drugs policy chief Gil Kerlikowske at the Project Lazarus run event in Wilkes County, North Carolina.

This year Gil Kerlikowske and Kana Enomoto, Principal Deputy Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced new initiatives in the fight against drugs including the release of a new Opioid Overdose Toolkit in honour of International Overdose Awareness Day.

The tool kit is aimed at healthcare professionals, first responders, communities, patients, and survivors and families of survivors of previous overdose.

The White House wants more potential overdose witnesses to carry naloxone.

By equipping first responders with this lifesaving drug we can begin to turn the tide on overdose death.

Michael Botticelli

“By equipping first responders with this lifesaving drug we can begin to turn the tide on overdose death,” said Michael Botticelli, deputy director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The White House drug office, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, is looking to find out how to get more police and emergency services to carry and use naloxone.

Gil Kerlikowske said: “Recently the issue of overdose has received heightened attention due in part to the passing of [actor] Cory Monteith, who was lost to drug use. But we should never forget that he’s just one of thousands that we lose each year to drug overdose,” he said.

“These numbers are staggering, especially because we know that each and every overdose death is preventable.

“This national drug challenge is a public health issue and not just a criminal justice issue. We’re not going to arrest our way out of our drug problem…”

The toolkit also describes 5 strategies for overdose prevention:

  • encourage providers, people at high risk, and family members to learn how to prevent overdose;
  • ensure access to treatment for individuals who are addicted to or misusing any drugs;
  • ensure ready access to naloxone by first responders;
  • encourage the public to call 911; and
  • encourage prescribers to use state prescription monitoring programs.

In addition, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn officially declared August 31 International Overdose Awareness Day for the state. This resulted in a broad coalition of 30 groups representing affected family and friends, treatment and prevention providers and grassroots organisations joining forces at Roosevelt University’s Schaumberg campus for a whole week of awareness-raising events. At the main remembrance and prevention event training was provided and 500 doses of naloxone were handed out. International Overdose Awareness Day was also promoted from the main stage at a Goo Goo Dolls concert in Napiersville.

In August we heard from Canada that Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper had proclaimed August 31 as Overdose Awareness Day for his city.

Meanwhile Bahrain was the latest country to begin marking the day, with an awareness-raising event in Tubli. Plans were also in train for an event in Lome, Togo.

In Australia

In Australia, a concerted effort has been made to connect politicians and community sector leaders into the campaign. Anex undertook a nationwide mailout to Federal and State/Territory politicians, local government, community organisations and alcohol and other drug organisations, encouraging them to share overdose awareness messages with their communities.

In a move to connect with a younger audience, we secured a partnership with youth clothing store Dangerfield to support International Overdose Awareness Day. The company promoted the day through its 15 Australian retail outlets by displaying campaign posters, selling badges and inserting campaign materials into customers’ shopping bags in the lead-up to August 31. This partnership is set to continue next year.

Anex’s hard-hitting community service broadcast announcement was also shown on Foxtel in the three weeks leading into the day. The community service announcement is based on a tragic real-life overdose and seeks in particular to educate people on unusual snoring as a danger sign.