International Overdose Awareness Day – August 31
August 30, 2013
This Saturday, August 31, marks International Overdose Awareness Day, and there hasn’t been a more important time to get involved. Drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death of Americans between the ages of 35 and 54; amassing a death toll of over 38,000 in 2010. That’s the equivalent of a city the size of Berkeley being wiped out every three years.
International Overdose Awareness Day is an occasion to promote a variety of policies that protect vulnerable segments of society. One such policy, the 911 Good Samaritan law, provides a level of immunity from arrest for low-level drug offences; allowing acquaintances of an overdosing individual to call emergency services without fear of prosecution. DPA spearheaded the passage of New Mexico’s ‘Good Samaritan’ legislation in 2007, and has passionately supported the implementation of such laws in 13 other states, including in New Jersey in May of this year.
Another vital tenet of harm reduction and overdose prevention is improving the availability of the life-saving drug, naloxone. Naloxone is an inexpensive, non-addictive, non-toxic, easily-administered and FDA-approved substance used as an antidote for individuals overdosing on opiate drugs, particularly heroin. Research shows that – with improved accessibility - naloxone could effectively halve the number of overdose death rates.
Entrenching ‘Good Samaritan’ laws and naloxone availability into state drug policy programs are vital steps, but they are not enough. Meghan Ralston, the harm reduction manager for DPA, insists that “much more is needed, such as integrating overdose prevention into existing drug education programs.” Alarming data shows that the number of first-time heroin users in the United States doubled between 2006 and 2011; it is vital for the federal and state governments to offer appropriate and humane legislation to correspond with the speed of these changes. This Saturday, on International Overdose Awareness Day, make it known to your friends, family and representatives that you support overdose prevention policies.
Avinash Tharoor is a freelance journalist.