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International Overdose Awareness Day 2021

Well, my friends, here we are, the end of summer.  I know some of us are crying on the inside that summer is coming to an end while the rest of us are ready to pull out those apple scented candles and start drinking our Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  Regardless of what this time of year means to you, there is one day  that stands out for many in our community that sometimes gets overlooked.  That day is International Overdose Awareness Day.

Overdose Awareness Day began in 2001 and was created by the Salvation Army in Melbourne, Australia.  The event occurs each year on August 31 and was intended to help raise community awareness of overdose related deaths as well as help reduce the stigma of substance use related deaths.   International Overdose Awareness Day was adopted globally by many different communities who host a community event to honor those who have lost their lives to overdose as well as to provide awareness on how serious overdose related deaths have become.

So many of you may say to yourself, “I don’t know anyone who uses drugs, so why would this date matter to me?”

The truth  is SUBSTANCE USE IS A GLOBAL PROBLEM THAT DOES EFFECT EACH AND EVERYONE OF US. 

Let me explain.

When people think of the term substance use, it is very common for people to assume people who use substances are in lower income communities, are engaged in gang activity, or are just “bad” people who you should stay away from, right?  WRONG.  So, let’s break down substance use shall we.  Substance use disorder is identified as a pattern of drug or alcohol use that causes a pattern of significant impairment in your day to day living.  Substances identified in this are not specific to the stereotype of “Hard drugs” as people may assume and can range from what people consider to be minor (alcohol or marijuana) to the “harder” stuff such as cocaine or heroin.  Additionally, this can also include medications that can be purchased over the counter as well as prescription medications written for us by our medical providers.  Nowhere in this explanation does it state that it affects you based on your income, your associates, or your values.

Now, have you or anyone you know either tried any of the above or taken medications as recommended by someone?  If yes…. read on.

ADDICTION CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.

Now, I don’t know about your personal experiences with substance use but in working in the field of mental health and substance use on top of having friends and family who have suffered from substance use disorders, I can tell you that I have yet to hear anyone say they WANT to have an addiction.  In fact, many of the following factors come into play when talking with someone struggling with substance use.

  • Untreated Mental Health
  • Genetics
  • Physical Dependence
  • Current or Past Trauma
  • Inability to cope

Now, to be clear, these are not the only underlying issues that could manifest into a substance use disorder but these are definitely some of the commonly reported factors.  I could go on to explain each and every one of those areas in detail but me writing this out is nowhere near as powerful as hearing the stories or talking to someone who went through it.

“Alright Katrina, it seems like this is issue is more complicated than I knew. What can I do?”

Simple. Educate yourself. Know the resources. And most importantly, do not judge others who are suffering.

Many people continue to use substances because they do not know how to ask for help, where to find help or are afraid of being stereotyped.  Again, this can happen to anyone but it’s so sad to me how many people are so afraid to come forward and rather they suffer in silence and continue to use.  Many people are passing away from overdose related deaths never knowing that this hit would be the last they have. Between people who smoke marijuana that get a batch laced with a heroin or someone who is using cocaine that is laced with fentanyl.  Or the people who get hooked on the medications they have been prescribed and take more just to ensure they get the same effect from when they first were prescribed it and take too much.  Remember, ADDICTION CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.

Want to learn more?  I highly recommend participating in one of the local Overdose Awareness Day events. Not only will you have an opportunity to learn more from guest speakers, family members, and emergency personnel who are fighting to prevent overdose related deaths, but you will also be able to pay your respects to those who lost their life to this horrible disease.  Spectrum Health and Human Services is hosting a free event on Monday, August 30 in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day at Veterans Park in West Seneca from 5pm-8pm,  and we will also be at Larkin Square for Food Truck Tuesday on August 31, handing out information and Narcan Kits to those interested.

The stigma and fear associated with admitting to a substance use disorder needs to come to an end.  Let’s be part of the solution and not the problem. Remember, educate yourself, know the resources, and don’t judge others who are suffering.  ADDICTION CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. Please don’t forget that.

Katrina Norris

Clinical Director

Springville Counseling Center

 

 

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