Did you know that overdose deaths outnumber traffic fatalities in the US? Someone dies every 14 minutes from a drug overdose in this country.¹ The terrifying reality is that addiction can touch anyone, anywhere. During Overdose Awareness Week, we remember the lives lost to drug overdose and the pain of the loved ones left behind. We raise awareness of substance use disorder to prevent deaths, promote treatment and celebrate recovery.

White House Proclamation on Overdose Awareness Week

Tammy Baumann Headshot“I had a very close friend, Judy, die from an accidental overdose not long after we finished nursing school. She suffered from a rare disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). She was given medication to relieve some of her pain and symptoms. Unfortunately, she got hooked on the medications that were supposed to help her get better and have a productive life. She left two young children behind.” shared Tammy Wagner, Quality Improvement Advisor at Great Plains QIN.

Tammy also shared, “When I was a director of nursing (DON) at a nursing home, my assistant DON’s son died from a drug-drug interaction. He was having trouble sleeping and dealing with an injury from a military deployment overseas. He went to bed after taking a combination of an opioid and a benzodiazepine; he never woke up. He was 29 years old and left behind a wife and son.”

Though we know addiction touches hundreds of thousands of families each year, the family and friends of those experiencing addiction often suffer in silence due to the feelings of stigma, guilt and shame.

Overdose Awareness Week is a time to remember those tragically lost to overdose and the pain of the families who are left behind. It is also an opportunity to recommit ourselves to working together to build safe, healthy, and resilient communities.  By adopting evidence-based approaches to reducing overdose risks and lowering barriers to treatment and support, we can save lives.

We hope that organizations and practitioners use this time to focus on the opioid epidemic and work with their communities to come together to reduce stigma and shame and increase practitioners who are willing to become a buprenorphine practitioner, pharmacists to encourage naloxone when filling an opioid and to help the general public understand the risk of taking opioids.

Take time to review the National Drug Foundation’s Interactive Course: The Truth About Drugs

  1. Source: CDC Understanding the Epidemic

Additional Resources

South Dakota Avoid Opioid
One Program – North Dakota

CDC Handbook for Healthcare Executives-Creating a Culture of Safety for Opioid Prescribing
CDC Video Series: Quality Improvement & Care Coordination When Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain

Department of Health and Human Services: Caring for Women with Opioid Use Disorder Toolkit
CDC Evidence-Based Strategies for Preventing Opioid Overdose
IHI Global Trigger Tool for Measuring Adverse Events