What is International Overdose Awareness Day?

International Overdose Awareness Day is held on August 31st each year.

Commemorating those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose, it also acknowledges the grief felt by their families and friends.

Celebrated around the world, International Overdose Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, especially for those mourning the loss of family and friends. It also spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

An inspired idea

International Overdose Awareness Day originated in Melbourne, Australia in 2001. Sally Finn, manager of a Salvation Army needle and syringe program, was touched by the sorrow she observed among the friends and families of those who had overdosed. She witnessed their inability to express that sorrow because of the stigma surrounding people who use drugs.

Sally decided to organise an event of remembrance. To commemorate those who had died from overdose, Sally hit upon the idea of distributing ribbons. She thought she’d need 500, she gave out 6,000.

More than a decade on, that one event in the back yard of a suburban crisis centre has evolved into International Overdose Awareness Day, which is now celebrated around the world. Its global significance reflects the universality of the human emotions triggered by the tragedy of overdose – a tragedy that’s preventable.

The organisation

Beginning in 2012 International Overdose Awareness Day is being organised by the non-profit Australian public health body Penington Institute after Salvation Army Crisis Services transferred responsibility. Its theme is Prevention and Remembrance.

Penington Institute advances health and community safety by connecting substance use research to practical action. We help individuals and the wider community through research analysis, promotion of effective strategies, workforce education and public awareness activities.

A number of committed individuals and a range of organisations involved in drugs and alcohol and emergency services make up this year’s committee.

Everyone from governments, councils, health services, police, families and individuals are encouraged to get involved and show their support.

Organisations and individuals are encouraged to develop and register their own local events or ceremonies.