International Overdose Awareness Day was initiated in 2001. August 31 will mark 21 years of the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose and remember without stigma those who have died, acknowledging the grief of all those impacted by overdose, and whose loved ones have died or suffered permanent injury.
It is vital for society to understand and accept the fact that overdose affects all parts of our community. Stigma and discrimination are still deeply embedded in overdose, with the general perception being that overdose is confined to populations who engage in illicit drug use, whereas the reality is that prescription medications, vitamins, supplements, and alcohol have also led to accidental overdoses.
For 21 years, this campaign has raised awareness of overdose, undoubtedly one of the world’s worst public health crises. Within Australia, we have lost more than 1700 lives to illicit drug overdose with a majority of these being unintentional and accidental. Recent statistics from 2019 show that more than 48% of Australians over the age of 14 admitted to using illicit drugs and a further 4.2% aged 14 and over reported the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals in the previous 12 months. Furthermore, between 1997 and 2019 benzodiazepine mortality rose from 1.9% per 100,000 population to 3.3%.
AIVL and its member organisations have been most active in their advocacy and marked moments of respect and remembrance for all those lost, particularly those who have been strong advocates and allies of harm reduction and evidence-based policy and practice, our network of peers, and everyone who has worked to advance the health and human rights of people who use drugs.
AIVL member organisation Harm Reduction Victoria will be showing their support by holding a rally on the steps of Melbourne Parliament on August 31. In the lead up to this event, they have listed 30 reasons to rally Parliament steps Melbourne (for the full list please visit Harm Reduction Victoria’s website: www.hrvic.org.au or check out their social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @harmreductionvictoria). AIVL’s other member organisations continue to raise awareness that many opiate overdoses are preventable if people carry live saving opioid reversal drug Naloxone. Many of our member organisations provide Naloxone training and distribute Naloxone through their NSPs. For more information, please contact your local drug user organisation.
AIVL and its member organisations will continue in their plight to stimulate discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy, informing people globally about the risk of overdose, providing information, harm reduction and a range of support services, in addition to a strong message of support to all current and former drug users, their families, friends peers, networks and loved ones that they are remembered and above all valued.
Adrian Gorringe - Project Officer, AIVL
AIVL is the national organisation representing people who use/have used illicit drugs and is the peak body for the state and territory peer-based drug user organisations.
Jake Docker, CEO, AIVL – email firstname.lastname@example.org