DPA to Participate in International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, 2010

Press Release August 30, 2010
Media Contact

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

Today, The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) will join dozens of organizations in the U.S. participating in International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31st. 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 preventable 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. "The good news is there are easy solutions to save lives. Most ways to prevent overdose deaths cost very little and are very easy to implement."

Two concrete actions that can prevent many overdose deaths are: (1) Passing "Good Samaritan 911" immunity legislation which encourages people witnessing an overdose to call 911 without fear of arrest. New Mexico and Washington have passed this legislation in recent years. (2) Expanding the availability of the overdose reversal drug naloxone which restores normal breathing in two to three minutes if administered during an opioid overdose.

DPA recently released a major report, Preventing Overdose, Saving Lives, which promotes a harm reduction approach that includes overdose prevention training programs and expanded access to naloxone. The report's release coincided with the introduction of the federal Drug Overdose Reduction Act, a bill introduced by Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) that would establish an innovative grants program for organizations across the country working to prevent drug overdose.

Over the next month, DPA is stepping up its efforts to educate lawmakers in D.C. about the overdose crisis and solutions to the problem. DPA is offering to deliver a purple ribbon (for overdose awareness) to the congressperson of anyone who wants to take action. In addition to the ribbon, the congressperson will also receive information about the Drug Overdose Reduction Act.

International Overdose Awareness Day, first started by the Salvation Army in Australia in 2001, is an opportunity for people around the world to:

"International Overdose Awareness Day allows families like mine to honor and remember our beautiful son Ian who tragically died from an overdose," said Marilee Murphy. "We will do everything we can to educate people who use drugs, families and elected officials to reduce the stigma around overdose and reduce the number of parents who have to feel the pain we do."

The report, Preventing Overdose, Saving Lives, is available here.

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