A Worldwide Initiative: International Overdose Awareness Day

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overdose awareness
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On August 31, we observe International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD).

Begun in 2001 in Melbourne, Australia, IOAD is an annual, worldwide initiative with multiple goals: to raise awareness of drug overdoses, to commemorate those who have lost their lives, and to encourage conversation about the issue. Additionally, the effort aims to reduce the stigma of seeking help for addiction and mental illness—to help avoid overdoses in the first place.

Since 2012, the campaign has been coordinated by the Penington Institute, a non-for-profit organization also based in Australia.

What Is Harm Reduction?

In avoiding an overdose, one of the underlying principles is harm reduction. In the case of alcohol, this means acknowledging that some people are going to drink heavily, even when doing so is against their own best interests.

For people who are drinking too much, getting help is possible while they are still alive. They can cut back on alcohol, or stop altogether—usually with some professional counseling and medication.

But if someone dies from an overdose, that’s the end of it.

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Alcohol Poisoning Is a Form of Overdose

Alcohol poisoning is a form of overdose, and can be fatal. According to the NIAAA, “An alcohol overdose occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down.”

How much alcohol causes this? It varies from person to person. Factors to consider include age, gender, and whether food is consumed while drinking.

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It’s also crucial to consider medications a person is already taking, some of which do not mix well with alcohol. Benzodiazepines, popular with many people, are especially dangerous. But even over-the-counter antihistamines put people at risk when mixed with alcohol.

Tragic stories of alcohol poisoning are everywhere. In 2018, an Ohio University student died after a night of extreme hazing that included drinking. More recently, in March 2021, a sophomore at Bowling Green State University died after a similar ritual) got out of control.

According to a 2015 article in The Washington Post, six people die every day from alcohol poisoning. And these are usually the result of binge drinking. For some people, this means eight drinks in a single evening.

An Event Now Recognized Worldwide

Though begun in Australia, the movement has spread worldwide. State and local governments around the United States have jumped on the bandwagon, often with their own websites or pages devoted to the issue.

Other organizations have also amplified the event, such as the National Safety Council, the American Public Health Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies.

Overdose awareness
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What You Can Do

You can help publicize IOAD with tips from overdoseday.com, which includes graphics, hashtags (like #EndOverdose), and other materials.

Part of the observance is sharing grief. The IOAD website offers people the chance to create memorial tributes for friends and family members.

And one of the best ways to avoid an overdose is to cut down on drinking. At Ria, we affirm principles of harm reduction. Abstinence is the preferred choice for some people, but for others, the goal is to drink more moderately.

Above all, we want you with us, living your best life.

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Written By:
Bruce Hodges
In a career that includes writing, editing, communication and fundraising consulting, Bruce Hodges has created and edited text for online and print publications, including proposals, press releases, and podium remarks. Among many other interests, he explores poetry and essays, and writes articles for The Strad magazine (London) and WRTI public radio (Philadelphia). “As a lifelong advocate for innovative causes, I think of friends no longer with us who struggled with alcohol. If they had access to the revolutionary science behind Ria Health, some of them might be alive today.”
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.

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