International Overdose Awareness Day, 31 August, is a day to remember those who have lost their lives as a result of a drug overdose and to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with drug-related death.
Opioids are responsible for over three deaths in Australia per day
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, opioids are responsible for over three deaths in Australia per day. In 2018, 1 123 Australians died from a pharmaceutical or illicit opioid overdose, this was the highest number of opioid-induced deaths since 2000. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports that opioids are the most common drug present in drug-induced deaths, with prescription drugs being the most likely cause of death rather than illegal drugs. The AIHW 2017 report also identified a substantial rise in the number of deaths with a prescription drug present over the past decade.
Opioid overdose is preventable; deaths can be avoided through widespread access to free overdose-reversing medicine naloxone and education on the signs of overdose.
Reversing opioid overdose
Naloxone is a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. It does this by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain, effectively kicking the opioids from their place and stopping an overdose in its tracks.
Naloxone is now available across NSW for free for anyone at risk of witnessing or experiencing an opioid overdose. Anyone can receive free naloxone without a prescription from community pharmacies and NSW Needle and Syringe Programs (NSP) registered in the take home naloxone program. Go to
Take Home Naloxone for further details, including a list of pharmacies and NSP locations.
Would you know how to spot an opioid overdose? The
Penington Institute, a public health research and drug policy organisation based in VIC, has produced a video showing how to spot the signs of an overdose and respond with naloxone.
Note: While this video shows the syringe method of administering naloxone, in NSW there are two types of naloxone available through the take home naloxone program, they are Nyxoid® nasal spray and Prenoxad® pre-filled syringe.
Remembering loved ones
From 6pm on 31 August Newcastle Town Hall will light up purple to commemorate the day. The International Overdose Awareness Day organisers are also asking people to post an online tribute to remember someone who has lost their lives or been injured as a result of a drug overdose. You can post a tribute at
For further information on International Overdose Awareness Day visit
overdoseday.com and find out how you can help make a difference in 2020.
Support for families and loved ones
Family Drug Support (FDS) is a non-religious, non-judgemental and caring organisation of volunteers who have first-hand experience living with family members experiencing alcohol or drug dependency.
FDS support families throughout Australia by providing information about alcohol and other drug dependence and treatment options, while also helping families to overcome stigma and reduce self-blame. They provide opportunities to access mutual support and help families build skills to strengthen their relationships.
FDS provide a 24 hour, 7 days a week support line for families available on 1300 368 186, support groups and meetings, the 'Stepping Stones' and 'Stepping Forward' courses, events and resources. For further information on the support available through FDS visit fds.org.au.
For free and confidential advice 24/7 call Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide counselling, information, referrals, and support. Or start a Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5:00pm. ADIS can also provide up-to-date information about service availability in your area during the COVID-19 pandemic.