International Overdose Awareness Day is observed on August 31st 2016 and is designed to raise awareness of drug addiction in the US. From 2001 to 2014, 250,000 Americans have died from prescription overdose. During that same time, 135,000 people died from illicit drug use (including cocaine and heroin). The rate of people who have died annually from overdoses have increased exponentially according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. There is a bias in regards to who battling addiction such as the often associated image of an African American man. There has to be a change in how the criminal justice system and public perceives addiction and the people who struggle with it. Drug addiction should be revered as a health issue, not a criminal issue.
VOCAL-NY is a Brooklyn-based advocacy organization, utilizing harm-reduction services to help change the stigma related with drug use. It hosts overdose prevention training teaching others how to administer Nalaxone (Nalaxone is an overdose antidote), providing syringe exchanges, and hepatitis C and HIV testing.
"Drug users are so stigmatized that people think they don't care about their lives, but organizations like ours try to create a safe space so they can get the care they need," said VOCAL-NY co-executive director Alyssa Aguilera.
In 2013, a law was passed stating that members of the public can be trained in administering Nalaxone which can definitely save the life of someone who has overdosed.