August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. While not the kind of day you would likely celebrate, it’s a good reminder of the role that drug overdoses and drug abuse have in our lives. The day provides a time for grieving families who have lost a loved one or who have had a loved one suffer a permanent injury as the result of an overdose.
Drug overdoses don’t affect only young people; they affect older adults as well. Here are a few facts about drug overdoses and substance abuse:
- Worldwide, 585,000 people died of drug use in 2017.
- In 2018, there were 67,367 drug overdoses in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- In 2019, almost 50,000 people in the U.S. died from the misuse of or addiction to opioids, including prescription pain drugs, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to DrugAbuse.gov.
- Opioids make up most drug overdoses.
- North America has the highest rate of drug-related mortality around the world.
- Nearly a million adults aged 65 and older live with substance abuse. This includes alcohol, prescription medicines (including opioids), marijuana, and nicotine.
- Older adults are more sensitive to the effects of drugs because the body can no longer break down drugs and alcohol as easily as it did in the past.
- Older adults do not use illicit drugs as often as those who are younger, but the number of older adults using these drugs is growing, according to the National Institute on Drug Use.
- Major life changes like retirement, grief, health changes, and changes in living situations can lead older adults to use substances to cope. More recently, social isolation and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have led many people (including older adults) to turn to alcohol and other substances to cope.
- During the pandemic, drug overdoses increased in every state in the U.S.
If you have a loved one (an older adult or any age) struggling with addiction, one place to start is the SAMHSA National Helpline by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA stands for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is a free, 24/7, 365-days-a year information service in English and Spanish for those facing mental and/or substance abuse disorders (or their families).
On August 31, you can raise awareness of International Overdose Awareness Day by looking for special events in your area or using the hashtags #EndOverdose or #OverdoseAware. Here is where to find more information on raising awareness of overdoses on International Overdose Awareness day.
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