DPA Coordinating Events for International Overdose Awareness Day (August 31) to Remember Lives Lost and to Educate About Solutions to Overdose Crisis

Press Release August 23, 2011
Media Contact

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Meghan Ralston 323-681-5224</p>

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) will be joining dozens of organizations in the U.S. and abroad who are participating in International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31. The day honors and remembers those who have lost their lives to an overdose. The occasion is also an opportunity to educate policymakers and the public about the growing overdose crisis in the United States and abroad – and to offer concrete solutions that save lives.

Accidental drug overdoses have quadrupled since 1990 and now cause the death of more than 26,000 Americans every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdose now ranks as a leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., second only to motor-vehicle accidents. Most overdose deaths in the United States are now attributed to prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone.

"The bad news is there is a real overdose crisis in the United States," said Meghan Ralston of the Drug Policy Alliance, "but the good news is there are easy solutions that can save thousands of lives. 'Good Samaritan' immunity laws that encourage people who are witnessing an overdose to call 911 without fear of arrest, and expanding access to naloxone – a low-cost drug that reverses overdoses within minutes – would both save lives immediately."

Last month, New York State became the fourth state to pass a law that allows people to call 911 when witnessing an overdose without fear of prosecution. This life-saving law should be replicated across the country.

DPA is stepping up its efforts to educate the public about the overdose crisis and to highlight solutions to the problem. DPA, music executives and grassroots organizers across the country will urge radio stations on International Overdose Day to play music by artists who died from a drug overdose and to give out the website www.drugpolicy.org/overdose so listeners can learn about ways to reduce overdose deaths.

"We cannot forget the lives that have been lost, nor can we allow this catastrophe to continue," said Jason Flom, president of Lava records and former CEO of Atlantic Records, Virgin Records and the Capital Music Group. "We are calling on radio stations everywhere to help spread the word on International Overdose Awareness Day by playing music created by bands that have lost a member to a drug overdose, like Sublime, Blind Melon, Hole, Alice in Chains, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Ramones."

DPA is also asking people to post music and clips on Facebook and Twitter on August 31 of people who died of an overdose and to mention International Overdose Awareness Day.

There will be candle light vigils, forums, performance art and more in the cities around the country, including: Durham, Hartford, Los Angles, New York and San Diego. You can go to www.drugpolicy.org/overdose to find out event details.

"Nothing will ever replace the love of my beautiful son Ian," said Marilee Murphy. "Since his death in 2007 the tragedy of death by overdose has continued to rise – thousands of families now share our grief.  These deaths are preventable and therein lies a shameful, sinful fact.  We need to acknowledge  the reality of this public health crisis and work towards the goal of education, harm reduction and realistic approaches to drug policy."

International Overdose Awareness Day, started by the Salvation Army in Australia in 2001, is an opportunity for people around the world to publicly mourn loved ones without guilt or shame. Many participating countries also use this day to send a strong message to current and former drug users that their lives are valued and that no one should ever die from a preventable fatal drug overdose.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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