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International Overdose Awareness Day

Posted on: Sunday, August 22nd, 2021

500,000. That is approximately how many deaths worldwide are caused by drug use, with more than 30% of those deaths attributable to overdose. In Canada, 6,214 apparent opioid toxicity deaths occurred in 2020 (approximately 17 deaths per day). Drug overdose continues to be a public health crisis in Alberta, where more Albertans are being lost to overdoses than homicides and motor vehicle collisions combined.  


International Overdose Awareness Day, observed on August 31st, is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose. The day is recognized around the world and focuses on reducing the stigma of drug-related deaths, spreading knowledge about overdose prevention, and acknowledging the deep grief felt by families and friends whose loved ones died from a drug overdose. 


Awareness is crucial, but it is only the first step. Hence, the slogan in 2016 for International Overdose Awareness Day was “time to remember, time to act”. This slogan reminds us that we must move beyond awareness and start acting on it too. Knowing about the dangers of substance abuse isn’t enough, we also need the tools to act on what we know and reduce some of the risks.


Everyone can take action. If you’re using drugs, there are a variety of resources available to you. These include naloxone kits and training, needle exchange services, counselling, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Contacting the Alberta addiction helpline at ​​1-866-332-2322 is often a great place to start. To contact an addiction helpline in another province or territory, you can visit Additionally, there are various programs, services, and resources available for Albertans through Alberta Health Services. If you’re not using drugs, you can take action by learning how to recognize and respond to an overdose at There are also downloadable resources available which can be shared with friends and family. 


Together, we can take action by supporting one another, emphasizing that the lives of people who use drugs matter, and turning our awareness into action!

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