TORONTO, August 31, 2022 – August 31 marks Overdose Awareness Day, an international day of recognition of the lives lost due to overdoses. It’s also an opportunity for us to destigmatize addiction and raise awareness of the continuum of evidence-based treatment options.
International Overdose Awareness Day was initiated in 2001 by Sally J Finn at The Salvation Army in St Kilda, Melbourne. The campaign raises awareness of overdose, which is one of the world’s worst public health crises and stimulates action and discussion about evidence-based overdose prevention and drug policy.
The rate of overdoses in Ontario has risen substantially in recent years. In 2021, Ontario reported 2819 opioid-related deaths, 80 per cent more than it reported in the year before the COVID-19 pandemic and over three times what it reported five years ago.
Without immediate, concentrated change, these numbers will continue to rise. Addictions and Mental Health Ontario’s (AMHO) 2022 budget recommendations included a call to urgently respond to the overdose crisis by restriking the Emergency Opioid Task Force, expanding access to treatment services in hotspot regions, and increasing the availability of supportive housing units.
People who use drugs make up many different walks of life. They can be friends or colleagues, parents or children, neighbours or strangers. But stigmas surrounding addiction lead to Ontarians hiding their substance use, resulting in a devastating and preventable loss of life.
“The overdose numbers in our province are heartbreaking and unacceptable,” said Alisha Tharani, CEO of AMHO. “Only with urgent action can we curb the overdose crisis and prevent these numbers from rising.”
“On behalf of the AMHO staff, I would like to thank our members who have been working on the front lines of this crisis, providing Ontarians with support, resources and recovery options.”
AMHO represents nearly 200 addiction and mental health organizations in Ontario. It is a leading voice in the provincial conversation surrounding addiction and mental health and its membership provides support to hundreds of thousands of Ontarians each year.