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.
'Prescription pain-killers and sedatives were the most commonly identified substances in drug-induced deaths in 2019' – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, opioids are responsible for over three deaths in Australia per day. In 2019, there were 1,865 drug-induced deaths in Australia, this was the highest number of opioid-induced deaths since 2000. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports that prescription drugs such as opioid based pain-killers and
benzodiazepines (sedatives) were the most commonly identified substances in those deaths.
There is a risk of fatal opioid overdose if someone takes too much opioids or opioids with some other drugs or alcohol.
Using alcohol, benzodiazepines, some antidepressants, and some over-the-counter drugs while on opioids can increase the risk of opioid overdose. There is also an increased risk of overdose if using opioids after a break (with reduced tolerance), for example returning to use after a recent withdrawal from opioids.
Opioid overdose is preventable. Opioid overdose deaths can be avoided through widespread access to free overdose-reversing medicine naloxone and education on the signs of overdose.
Reversing opioid overdose
When an opioid overdose happens, a person’s breathing slows down or completely stops, leading to rapid loss of consciousness and potentially death if help is not given in time. Naloxone is a medicine that works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the effects of opioids.
When administered in time, naloxone can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, enabling the person to breathe normally while waiting for an Ambulance to arrive.
Naloxone is available in 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, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and NSW Needle and Syringe Programs (NSP) registered in the take home naloxone program.
Take Home Naloxone for further details, including a list of participating pharmacies, NGOs and NSPs.
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
Every year, thousands of people around the world take part in International Overdose Awareness Day on 31 August.
There are many ways you can participate on the day and throughout the year, including posting an online tribute to someone who has lost their lives or been injured as a result of a drug overdose. For further information on International Overdose Awareness Day visit
overdoseday.com and find out how you can help make a difference.
Support for families and loved ones
Are you concerned about a loved one's use of alcohol or other drugs? Or want to understand how to talk to someone close to you who may be struggling? For Families contains information to support families reduce the harms caused by alcohol and other drugs, find support services and understand treatment options.
Family Drug Support (FDS) provides support and assistance to families throughout Australia who may be having trouble with a family member using alcohol or other drugs. FDS is a non-religious organisation staffed by non-judgemental and caring volunteers, many of whom have first-hand experience living with a family member experiencing alcohol or drug dependency.
FDS' Support Line is available 24/7 on 1300 368 186. For further information on the support available through FDS, including their support groups and meetings, courses, events and resources, 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.