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Drug overdose. Know more. Save lives.

August 31st, 2019 is International overdose awareness day. It is a day to remember loved ones who have died from drug overdose as well as raise awareness and reduce the stigma around drug overdose deaths.

The prevalence of drug overdose in communities is primarily due to increasing use and dependency on opioids and other substances. Young people, for instance, are increasingly ending up in the emergency room with signs of overdose from using substances.

Statistics Canada reports that between January 2016 - September 2018, 10,300 Canadians had died from drug overdose. The Stats further notes that 93% of these overdose deaths were accidental. Therein lies the tragedy!

People addicted to opioids and other drugs are driven by uncontrollable intense craving to use consistently high doses until the body is poisoned, resulting in death. Youth can be poisoned from a deadly mix of substances like opioids, cannabis and alcohol which they buy from the black market. In spite of Health Canada regulations and standards on cannabis production and sales, there are indications that black market sales are soaring and cost per gram of cannabis to consumers are much lower than those in licensed facilities. Studies also indicate that 55% of teens in Canada say that prescription drugs are easy to get. Possibly, these are given to them by friends or family. The threat of substance use disorder is real.

Most drug overdose deaths are unintentional. They occur as a result of a mental disorder over which an individual has no control until treatment is sought.

Prevent drug overdose

* Friends and family of individuals who are dependent on illegal or prescription drugs should support and help them seek treatment.

*Individuals who use drugs consistently and are dependent should always carry a naloxone kit with them to reverse the effects of opioid overdose and prevent death. Naloxone kits in Canada are availble at no cost through community pharmacies or organizations.

*Use harm reduction services like Ontario harm reduction network, The Works needle exchange, Breakway, CMHA.

*Communicate constantly with their health care provider about painkillers and other medications.

* Health care providers should prescribe and monitor opioids judiciously.

* Friends and family should refrain from sharing their prescription medications with other members.

Overdose deaths are preventable. WHO data indicates that only 10% of individuals with opioid dependence get the treatment they need even though effective treatments are available.

Let's continue to educate communities on substance use, their harmful effects and overdose deaths. Support individuals, families and communities struggling through the "opioid crisis".

Effective treatments are available. Overdose deaths are preventable. Be aware!

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