Overdose Awareness Day mourns those who died, rejects stigma

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Drug overdoses now are the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. And North America is the deadliest continent when it comes to substance use, accounting for 1-in-4 drug-related deaths globally.

But the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

That’s the message of Friday’s International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held every August 31 to raise the awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. It’s a day not only to remember those who have died or suffered a permanent injury to drug overdose, but also to support their grieving families and friends.

The day started in 2001 at a Salvation Army in Australia and now is commemorated worldwide. New Jerseyans have several opportunities to mark the day. Events will be held in Forked River, Howell, Keansburg, Manasquan, Medford, Robbinsville and Westampton in our area. See a full schedule of events here.

Note that some events start as early as today, including a candlelight vigil tonight at Robbinsville Community Park, where Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri is scheduled to speak. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton is a member of the Prevention Council of Mercer County, which helped organize the event, and will have a table there.

A worsening crisis

More than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses nationally last year, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control. That’s the most ever, and 7 percent higher than in 2016, preliminary figures show.

In New Jersey alone, 1,970 people have fatally overdosed this year, as of Aug. 26, according to state data. That’s about eight people every single day.

“State statistics show that the number of overdose deaths has increased dramatically from 1,223 lives lost in 2012 to more than 1,900 lives lost so far this year – and the year is far from over,” said Susan Loughery, Catholic Charities director of operations (pictured at right). “At Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, we are developing new programs to increase access to treatment, using evidence-based practices to improve outcomes and support recovery, and vigorously advocating at local, state and federal levels for more resources to combat this deadly disease.”

Opioids cause most drug-related deaths. In most cases, such deaths are avoidable, experts agree. President Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and last week directed the Justice Department to sue opioid makers. In New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbil Grewal in February created an “addiction response” office to coordinate the state’s drug-treatment efforts with those of other groups.

For help: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton offers several addictions-focused recovery and treatment programs, including medication-assisted treatment and outpatient/ambulatory detox. To connect with compassionate, professional staff, call our Access, Help and Information Center at (800) 360-7711.

For more information, contact Dana DiFilippo, communications, at (609) 394-5181, ext. 1153.

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