Addictions and Mental Health Ontario observes International Overdose Awareness Day

AMHO News

August 31, 2020

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. International Overdose Awareness Day is observed globally to acknowledge the grief felt by those who have lost loved ones to preventable overdose deaths and to end the stigma of drug-related death.

“Today, we are reminded that people who use drugs adhere to no stereotype. They are our parents, our children, our neighbours, our co-workers and our friends,” said Adrienne Spafford, CEO of Addictions and Mental Health Ontario (AMHO), “Many hide their substance use from their loved ones out of fear of the stigma. The result is a catastrophic, and preventable, loss of life.”

Like many countries across the globe, Canada is amid an opioid and overdose crisis. Since 2016, more than 15,000 Canadians died from overdose. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians’ life expectancy has been reduced for the first time in a generation due to the overdose crisis.

The overdose crisis in Ontario has impacted every sociodemographic profile. Data from the Chief Coroner for Ontario shows the preliminary number of opioid-related deaths for 2019 in Ontario is 1,535 (which may rise as outstanding investigations are completed), up from 1,450 deaths in 2018. The number of suspected drug-related deaths in March, April, and May 2020 are approximately 25% higher than the average number of suspected drug-related deaths reported each month in 2019 and the first two months of 2020.

“The lack of action on the overdose crisis is a direct result of the general population seeing drug use as a personal failure. This assumption is wrong, and it is killing people,” said Spafford.

Today, AMHO and AMHO members continue to call for action and are raising awareness about the need for increased access to evidence-informed non-judgmental harm reduction services to reduce deaths from overdoses, and to expand access to broader mental health and addiction treatment.

To learn more about International Overdose Awareness Day and for ideas about how you can get involved to end drug overdose and overdose death stigma, visit www.overdoseday.com.

Read the op-ed in today’s Toronto Star by Adrienne Spafford, CEO of Addiction and Mental Health Ontario.