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August 31, 2012



International Overdose Awareness Day is held on August 31st each year. Commemorating those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose, it also acknowledges the grief felt by their families and friends.

"In Ottawa, two to three people die every month from drug overdose and every day there are over three emergency calls for overdose. International Overdose Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths for those mourning the loss of family and friends. It also spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable," said Rob Boyd of the Oasis Program in Ottawa.

Between 2002 and 2009 there were 1654 fatal overdoses attributed to illegal drugs in B.C. and death from drug‐related overdose is a leading cause of accidental death in Ontario. Each year in Ontario between 300 and 400 people die from overdose involving prescription opioids -- most commonly oxycodone. In Ontario, prescriptions of oxycodone increased by 850% between 1991 and 2007. The addition of long-acting oxycodone to the drug formulary was associated with a 5-fold increase in oxycodone-related mortality and a 41% increase in overall opioid-related mortality.

Drug overdoses can occur from prescribed, over-the-counter and illegal drugs including opiates like heroin and oxycodone and from stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines.

"Our organization works with people in Victoria B.C., who are at risk from overdose due to both illegal and legal substance use including prescription medication and alcohol,” explains Karen Dennis, Executive Director of the Victoria Aids Resource Community Service Society. "Society tends to think of people who use drugs as disposable. We are all people, we all have family and friends who care, and there are things we can do to prevent the deaths of our loved ones and community members.”

Events in Canada marking International Overdose Awareness Day 2012

Ottawa: This year Ottawa is hosting an event at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin St. (at Laurier St.) in front of City Hall from 11:30am -12:30pm. Speakers will give an update on overdose statistics in Ontario, Dr. Lynne Leonard (Ottawa University) will speak and organizers will demand overdose prevention programming (Naloxone), evidence based treatment facilities, and the establishment of a supervised injection facility in Ottawa. Click for more information.  

Toronto: The South Riverdale Community Health Centre is offering an afternoon of events with food and films. To kick things off, they are declaring their facility to be a Good Samaritan Zone and reminding people that they won’t be penalized for drawing attention to an overdose occurring on the site. Events will continue with a talk by Chantal Marshall from The Works in Toronto, who will discuss the role that Naloxone can play in responding to overdose, and Walter Cavalieri from the Canadian Harm Reduction Network, who will speak about the importance of remembrance on International Overdose Awareness Day.

Edmonton: Streetworks will be hosting a candlelight ceremony at City Hall at 2:00pm. Along with the ceremony, there will be words spoken by the Medical Officer of Health for the Edmonton Zone, Dr. Christopher Sikora, as well as a designate from City Hall. There will also be a raffle, with all proceeds going to overdose awareness programs.

Victoria: A vigil will be begin at 10:00am on the corner of Quadra and Pandora to honour those lost to fatal drug overdose and to recognize how stigma and discrimination, criminalization and a lack of harm reduction services, including supervised consumption services, continue to result in overdose fatalities.


Media contacts:

Ashley Cherniwchan, RN, BSCN
Nurse Educator
Streetworks, Edmonton
780 424 4106 ext 210/211

Rob Boyd
Oasis Program, Ottawa
(613) 875-0076

Karen Dennis,
Executive Director
VARCS, Victoria, BC
250-388-6220; Cell 250-744-6573

Douglas Haddow
Communications Coordinator
Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
C/O Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction
Simon Fraser University
#2400 - 515 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 5K3

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