International Overdose Awareness Day – August 31st

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day.  It’s a day to remember the loved ones we’ve lost to overdose, but also to educate ourselves on the signs of overdose. We need to continue to bring awareness in order to prevent more deaths from overdose.

To bring awareness this year, I will be sharing information on depressant overdoses. I have several family members who have lost their lives to using depressants excessively, specifically my mother. I’ve provided links to the International Overdose Awareness Day Fact Sheets that go into detail about what to do if someone you know is showing signs of an overdose from a depressant or other types of substances. It could save their life.

What are Depressants? 

These substances are often prescribed to relieve pain, help you sleep or in the case of alcohol, used recreationally when socializing. However, when taken in excessive amounts or in combinations with other drugs, depressants can depress normal functions such as breathing and heart rate until they eventually stop, resulting in brain damage or death.

Signs of an Overdose

  • Vomiting
  • Unresponsive, but awake
  • Limp body
  • Pale and/or clammy face
  • Blue fingernails or lips
  • Shallow or erratic breathing, or not breathing at all
  • Slow or erratic pulse (heartbeat)
  • Choking or sounds of a gurgling noise
  • Loss of consciousness

How to Respond

  • Call an ambulance, tell the operator your location, and stay on the line.
  • Be prepared to give CPR if they stop breathing before an ambulance arrives.
  • Ensure the person has adequate air by keeping crowds back or opening windows. Loosen tight clothing.
  • If the person is unconscious or wants to lie down, put them in the recovery position and continue to monitor them.
  • Provide paramedics with as much information as possible, such as what, and how much of the drug was taken, how long ago and any pre-existing medical conditions. If the drug came in a bottle or packet, give the packaging to the ambulance officers.

Fact Sheets

Click on any of these fact sheets to learn more about what the substances are, the signs of an overdose, and how to respond when someone is showing these signs.

History of International Overdose Awareness Day: 

“International Overdose Awareness Day was initiated in 2001 by Sally J Finn at The Salvation Army in St Kilda, Melbourne.

Since 2001, many community members as well as government and non-government organizations have held events to raise awareness and commemorate those who have been lost to drug overdose.

Since 2012, International Overdose Awareness Day has been coordinated by the not-for-profit Australian public health organization Penington Institute.” (Description from OverdoesDay website)