2021 International Overdose Awareness Day August 31

Translation into most languages at tab to the right.

The need has never been more urgent to alert us all to the risk of overdose facing millions of people worldwide. During the 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, overdose deaths have risen approximately 30% in many parts of the world due to isolation, unstable drug sources, and lack of reliable medical and recovery help. Even the normal inadequate support services have been seriously disrupted and diverted. And the hope of C19 disappearing sometime soon is now seen as wishful thinking – it is a new deadly virus we will have to learn how to live with.

So, what can we do to help prevent further loss of lives for those already struggling with addiction?

On a recent webinar, Prof. Dan Lubman shared a thought that stuck in my mind because it brought up memories of conversations I had with my son when he was addicted. Dan said that the question friends and loved ones frequently ask someone struggling in addiction is, “Why are you taking drugs?”

Yep – I did that. But a more engaging question would be,

“What put you in this vulnerable position?”

This question shows the understanding that addiction is not just a matter of choice or will-power but that it is a complex problem that will not be helped with simplistic answers such as “Just Say No.” When that person feels less stigma, that they are not being judged and that there is hope for them, they are increasingly likely to consider treatment.

So what puts people into the vulnerable position where drugs/alcohol are helping them cope with life? The 5 main factors that contribute to addiction are:

genetics, mental illness, home and social environment, stress, trauma/abuse.

We can’t do anything about our genes although, as I have said, if you know there is alcoholism/addiction in your family tree there is need for extra awareness and precautions. Mental illness once recognized, not denied, and diagnosed properly, can be treated with therapy, education, and medication. Home and social environments, stress, and trauma and abuse are absolutely within the parents and extended family’s control. This is where raising our children as “a village” is so important. It is in peril with our upwardly-mobile lifestyles of frequently moving house, not enough time together, and not engaging with our community. Educating our families and involvement in healthy and safe support networks such as service organizations and faith and school communities are a good place to start.

Once someone is using substances to self-medicate, for whatever reasons, what can we do? First, we need to look for, and reach out to, people struggling with addiction. There may be some in your circle of friends – even in affluent communities – or in an area near you. If we truly understand that those individuals will shrivel in shame from stigma, we can start by changing how we speak about them and to them. Building trust over time is critical to someone feeling they can openly discuss their problems. We can find out more about what is being done in our community to support recovery efforts and get involved with clean needle exchanges, Narcan training and distribution, food distribution, safe injection and health facilities, etc.

In a report from Norway discussing housing for people who are addicted, Jon Storaas, manager of RIO, an organization in Norway working to help substance abusers, said, “We need to provide residences to ensure that addicts can live with neighbors who don’t share their drug problems…meet with them, talk about their problems…this kind of experience and openness can strip people of their ordinary prejudices. You need to create these encounters so people can see that drug addicts are human, too. Extreme examples of ordinary people, you might say. But ordinary nevertheless.” (1)

In 2018 Time reported that “in the 1990’s, Portugal was in the grip of heroin addiction. An estimated 1% of the population—bankers, students, socialites—were hooked on heroin and Portugal had the highest rate of HIV infection in the entire EU. But in 2001, Portugal took a radical step. It became the first country in the world to decriminalize the consumption of all drugs… while drug dealers still go to prison.”

The results? “The drug-induced death rate has plummeted to five times lower than the EU average and stands at one-fiftieth of the United States’. Its rate of HIV infection has dropped from 104.2 new cases per million in 2000 to 4.2 cases per million in 2015. Drug use has declined overall among 15-24 yr-olds, those most at risk of initiating drug use… And, by eliminating the threat of criminal penalties—and along with it, a great deal of stigma—it has become easier for people to seek treatment. Between 1998 and 2011, the number of people in drug treatment increased by over 60%; nearly three-quarters of them received opioid-substitution therapy…”

“What America and other countries can learn from Portugal is to treat people with more dignity.” Portugal has showed that, without spending significant sums, governments can give drug users the tools to put their lives back on track. But to do so, it will have to stop treating them like criminals.(2)

In July, Gov. Daniel McKee of Rhode Island signed into law a proposal to help combat the opioid overdose crisis by creating supervised drug consumption sites to help prevent overdoses. Rhode Island is the first US state to authorize them. (3)

Ultimately, what IOAD is about, what this blog is about, is Awareness: Becoming aware of a problem is the first step towards solving that problem. No one can recover from addiction if they have died from an overdose. (4)

  1. Addicts Want Sober Neighbours by Georg Mathisen – Saturday 11. January 2014, Norway

https://sciencenorway.no/addiction-drug-rehab-drug-use/addicts-want-sober-neighbours/1395274

Addicts who live in close proximity to one another tend to reinforce one another’s bad habits. People who are substance dependent say that pressure and unsolicited visits from other users are factors that make it harder to overcome their addiction.

Jon Storaas, general manager of RIO, an organisation in Norway working to help substance abusers, said, “Provide residences to ensure that addicts can live with neighbours who don’t share their drug problems…meet with them, talk about their problems…this kind of experience and openness can strip people of their ordinary prejudices. You need to create these encounters so        people can see that drug addicts are human, too. Extreme examples of ordinary people, you might say. But ordinary nevertheless,” he says.

2.

WANT TO WIN THE WAR ON DRUGS? PORTUGAL MIGHT HAVE THE ANSWER By Naina Bajekal | Photos by Gonçalo Fonseca – August 1, 2018

https://time.com/longform/portugal-drug-use-decriminalization/

In the 1990’s, Portugal was in the grip of heroin addiction. An estimated 1% of the population—bankers, students, socialites—were hooked on heroin and Portugal had the highest rate of HIV infection in the entire European Union…But in 2001, Portugal took a radical step. It became the first country     in the world to decriminalize the consumption of all drugs…

Seventeen years on, the U.S. is suffering its worst addiction epidemic in American history…In Portugal, meanwhile, the drug-induced death rate has plummeted to five times lower than the E.U. average and stands at one-fiftieth of the United States’. Its rate of HIV infection has dropped from        104.2 new cases per million in 2000 to 4.2 cases per million in 2015. Drug          use has declined overall among the 15- to 24-year-old population, those most at risk of initiating drug use…

2015 study found that since Portugal approved the new national strategy    in 1999 that led to decriminalization, the per capita social cost of drug misuse decreased by 18%… 

Under the 2001 law, drug dealers still go to prison. But anyone caught with   less than a 10-day supply of any drug—including marijuana and heroin—is typically sent to a local commission, consisting of a doctor, lawyer and social worker, where they learn about treatment and available medical    services. And in Portugal, no distinction is made between “hard” or “soft” drugs, or whether consumption happens in private or public. What matters is whether the relationship to drugs is healthy or not…

“Drug addiction is something that will always exist,” Fonseca says, articulating one of the principles underlying Portugal’s attitude to drug abuse. But by eliminating the threat of criminal penalties—and along with it, a great deal of stigma—it has become easier for people to seek treatment. Between 1998 and 2011, the number of people in drug treatment increased by over 60%; nearly three-quarters of them received opioid-substitution therapy…

Portugal still has a way to go, with some people continuing to use drugs in terrible conditions. But, Fonseca says, “what America and other countries can learn from Portugal is to treat people with more dignity.” Portugal has showed that, without spending significant sums, governments can give drug users the tools to put their lives back on track. But to do so, it will have to stop treating them like criminals.

3.

RI Gov. McKee signs legislation allowing safe-injection sites into law Katie Mulvaney The Providence Journal, 2021 July 7

https://www.providencejournal.com/story/news/2021/07/07/gov-mckee-signs-legislation-allowing-safe-injection-sites-into-law/7891057002/

4.

How to Help Someone Struggling with Addiction

https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-help-addicts-22238

Author: Jude DiMeglio Trang

My husband, John, and I are parents of a young opiate addict who died of an accidental heroin overdose at 25. These are our credentials for writing and working towards reversing the exponentially rising statistics for opiate addiction and deaths in our country and the world.

One thought on “2021 International Overdose Awareness Day August 31”

  1. I like that – reframing the question. I notice that with kids. We keep asking why – gosh they don’t know. They probably didn’t even think of a reason before they did “xyz…”

    Good stuff! 💕

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

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