International Overdose Awareness Day
Originating in Australia in 2001, International Overdose Awareness Day is observed annually on August 31. The day serves to raise awareness of overdose prevention, to commemorate and remember individuals lost to overdose and to acknowledge the impact of the issue on family, friends and communities.
The City of Toronto formally adopted Overdose Awareness day in 2016, through a proclamation by Mayor John Tory, acknowledging drug overdoses as a significant public health issue and an increasing cause of death for residents in Toronto and Ontario. The proclamation advocated for a rededication of efforts to prevent future loss of life.
Last fall, in response to a dramatic increase in overdose-related deaths, the city began work on the Toronto Overdose Action Plan, which was approved by the Board of Health on March 20, 2017. The plan is based on international research and best practices and was informed by a number of open invitation community consultation sessions. Read a summary of the plan’s key strategies.
Each year, events are held globally on August 31 and supporters wear silver to promote awareness and acknowledge the grief of those who have been affected. The day marks an opportunity to learn more about the current crisis and the efforts of harm-reduction and health workers across Canada seeking solutions and advocating for change.
Those affected by opioid overdoses have sought to remember loved ones through public education and promotion, attempting to combat the stigma and shame related to drug use. An Ontario mother who lost her son created this interactive map to show that overdose victims are everyday people whose passing has affected communities across North America.
The websites for the Toronto Drug Strategy and The Works (Toronto Public Health’s harm reduction program) are good starting points for information and resources with a local focus. The Centre for Addition and Mental Health (CAMH) also has an excellent FAQ and links to resources relating to opioid overdoses, including their own resource hub. For information about naloxone, an antidote medication that temporarily reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, see the Government of Ontario’s page.
More information can also be found by searching the Health and Wellness Resource Center, a database available for free with your Toronto Public Library card. As well, the following titles may be of interest to those seeking to learn more about the opioid crisis, Canadian drug policy and harm reduction strategies: