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International Overdose Awareness Day

International Overdose Awareness Day is a global campaign that works towards preventing overdose, reducing the stigma associated with it, and providing support to families and loved ones of overdose victims. The unofficial awareness day is observed every year on August 31.

Woman alone on a swing.
Substance dependence and overdose can be devastating to families and communities.
Substance dependence and overdose can be devastating to families and communities.

The day was established in 2001 by Australians Sally J. Finn and Peter Streker as a way to commemorate those who have lost their lives to overdose, and to support the loved ones whose lives have been affected by drug abuse.

Since 2012, the responsibility of organizing International Overdose Awareness Day has been taken over by the Penington Institute, an Australian non-profit health organization. Despite its Australian roots, the day is now observed all over the world.

Recognizing Symptoms of Overdose

Medical professionals define overdose as the accidental or intentional use of a drug or a substance such as alcohol or a narcotic beyond the recommended dosage. An overdose can have serious consequences, with effects ranging from mild disorientation to seizures, brain injury, and death.

Part of International Overdose Awareness Day's agenda is to spread information about how to detect signs of substance abuse and overdose, and what to do when encountering a person who may be having an adverse reaction to a drug. Disorientation, agitation, difficulty in breathing, and vomiting can be signs of overdose and should not be ignored.

A Global Problem

Overdose is an increasing global problem. A 2014 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that about 183,000 people succumb to overdose around the world every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an American public health organization, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States.

A vast majority of overdose deaths occur due to opioid abuse. Opioids are a class of drugs that reduce the intensity of pain by interacting with proteins called opioids found in the human brain, spinal cord, and other organs. Opiates include illegal substances like heroin, as well as legally prescribed medication such as oxycodone, codeine, and morphine.

Serious Consequences

Overdose is not the only consequence of drug dependence. In many parts of the world, the shared use of needles and drug injecting equipment can make users vulnerable to hepatitis C and HIV. According to UNODC, an estimated 13% of all drug users globally live with HIV.

Drug trafficking and drug-related illnesses and crimes can also negatively affect families and communities. One of the main purposes of International Overdose Awareness Day is to help reduce the stigma surrounding overdose by talking about it and by bringing attention to the fact that substance abuse and drug overdose is preventable.

What Happens on International Overdose Awareness Day?

International Overdose Awareness Day is not an official holiday, so businesses, schools, and government offices are open. Community health groups, needle exchange organizations, educators, medical professionals, and policy-makers organize outreach drives, conferences, and workshops to bring attention to the growing problem of overdose. They also provide information to the general public about how to identify substance dependence and overdose.

People are encouraged to wear silver badges to show their support for overdose awareness.

International Overdose Awareness Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere It is Observed
TueAug 312010International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
WedAug 312011International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
FriAug 312012International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
SatAug 312013International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
SunAug 312014International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
MonAug 312015International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
WedAug 312016International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
ThuAug 312017International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
FriAug 312018International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
SatAug 312019International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 
MonAug 312020International Overdose Awareness DayWorldwide observance 

Quick Facts

International Overdose Awareness Day is an annual observation which aims to raise global awareness of about the impact of drug overdose on families and communities. The campaign also attempts to remove the stigma associated with overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day 2016

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

International Overdose Awareness Day 2017

Thursday, August 31, 2017


Name in other languages

International Overdose Awareness DayEnglish
Día Internacional de Concienciación SobredosisSpanish
יום המודעות הבינלאומי מנת יתריHebrew
يوم ثنائية الجيوم التوعية جرعة زائدة الدوليةArabic
국제 약물과 인식의 날Korean
Internajonal overdose-dagNorwegian
Internationaler Überdosis-Bewusstseins-TagGerman

List of dates for other years

Fun Holiday on August 31, 2016

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