International Overdose Awareness Day 2022

Today, we’ve got a vital topic to discuss: International Overdose Awareness Day, happening on August 31st every year. 

OHN cares deeply about subjects like acute intoxication, and we actively endorse drug-free treatments. We’ll discuss signs of opioid overdose and what you can do. 

Let’s shine a positive light on this serious subject!

The Aim of International Overdose Awareness Day

This annual event tackles the stigma of substance abuse by acknowledging the grief of those affected by drug-related deaths. As we remember and reflect on loved ones, we can help others recover from addiction.

Learning about substance abuse allows everyone to support those affected, and they’ll feel less alone on their road to recovery. 

What Is Acute Intoxication?

Serious harm can occur to a person who abuses substances that cause acute intoxication or an overdose — but aren’t they the same problems?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines acute intoxication as a “condition that follows the administration of a psychoactive substance resulting in disturbances in levels of consciousness, cognition, perception, effects of behaviour, or other psychophysiological functions and responses.”

What Can Cause Overdose?

The WHO defines an overdose as “the use of any drug in such an amount that acute adverse physical or mental effects are produced.”

We’ll discuss the signs of opioid overdose to clarify these definitions. It’s important to know that drugs like prescription medications, opioids, alcohol, and either stimulants or depressants can cause acute intoxication.

How to Control Medication Use

Correct dosage of medications

Always know and understand when to take your medications and the correct dosage. No drug should get mixed with alcohol; some drugs can be dangerous if taken simultaneously. 

If you don’t feel like you’re in control regarding drug use, seek help. You are not alone!

What Are Opioids?

The opium poppy is the source of synthetic or natural opioid drugs, including commonly used substances like oxycodone, heroin, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, methadone, and the recreational drug opium itself.

It’s considered an opioid when it reduces pain signals to the brain by attaching to receptors in the body’s central nervous system. Opioids can get prescribed to assist with sleep or relieve pain, but if a prescription is misused, it can lead to acute intoxication or overdose.

Signs of Opioid Overdose

When an opioid is taken excessively (or in combination with alcohol or another drug), it can depress normal functions in the body, including breathing or the heart rate, until these processes fail. The worst-case scenario is death.

That’s why it’s critical to understand what opioid overdose is. The signs include:

  • A person doesn’t respond to stimuli
  • Their breathing is shallow or has stopped
  • They don’t wake up
  • They make strange noises that sound like unusual snoring or gurgling 
  • Their lips or fingernails turn blue or greyish
  • Their legs and arms are floppy.

The Canadian Government provides helpful statistics on opioid abuse, accounting for many drug-related Canadian deaths. The statistics are startling:

  • From January to December 2021, 7,560 Canadians died from apparent opioid deaths. To put this in perspective, that’s 21 accidental deaths per day in 2021 from opioid substance abuse.
  • 74% of those deceased were men, and most deaths occurred in people aged 20 to 59.
  • Of the 2021 accidental opioid toxicity deaths, 81% involved non-pharmaceutical or non-prescription opioid substances.

We want to address solutions here, so let’s explore how we can fight opioid addictions and guide people towards recovery.

What Can We Do for Overdose Awareness?

Overdose Awareness: what can we do?

If a person shows signs of opioid overdose, you can assist them. Here is your active response plan in the case of an opioid overdose:

  • Immediately call an ambulance, give your location, and remain on the line.
  • Be careful around any used, dangerous needles. 
  • Under the direction of the 911 operator, you might give the person a sternal rub (firmly rubbing your knuckles across their sternum to get a response from them).
  • If they remain “life signs absent,” put their body in a recovery position to keep their breathing unobstructed.
  • Remain with the person until help arrives.
  • Never give a person any food or drinks, and don’t try to make them vomit.

What to Know About Other Substances

There are other concerns besides opioid awareness. Here’s what to know about depressants, stimulants, and alcohol abuse.

Facts About Depressants

If a depressant is abused through overuse or combined with other drugs, it can depress vital functions like heart rate or breathing. The worst-case scenario is brain damage or even death.

Signs of a depressant overdose include:

  • Vomiting
  • Limp limbs or a loss of consciousness
  • A clammy or pale face
  • Lips or fingernails turn grey or blue
  • The pulse is slow or erratic.

We’ll discuss how to respond to a depressant overdose. But, first, let’s take a closer look at the dangers of stimulants.

Facts About Stimulants

Dangerous stimulants include amphetamines like “speed” or “ice.” People who overdose on amphetamines may experience a heart attack, a stroke, a seizure, or a harmful, drug-induced psychotic episode.

Overdose Response for Depressants or Stimulants

Whatever overdose symptoms the person is showing, always use this response procedure right away:

  • Call 911 with your location and remain on the line. 
  • Follow the operator’s direction to give CPR if necessary. 
  • Make sure the person’s breathing is unobstructed and loosen tight clothing.
  • Always put the person in a recovery position and don’t leave them.
  • When the ambulance arrives, give paramedics all the information you know, including what drug (and how much) the person took, when they took it, and any medical conditions they have. If possible, hand over the drug container or packet.

Lastly, let’s talk about alcohol poisoning or binge drinking. Alcohol is considered a depressant, and people do overdose on it.

Facts About Acute Alcohol Poisoning

If a person drinks too much, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in their bloodstream becomes dangerously high. The worst-case scenario is chronic heart disease or death from choking on vomit.

Make an Impact on International Overdose Awareness Day

It's essential to know the signs and response plan for overdose

Knowing the signs of opioid overdose and acute intoxication and having a response plan can save a life!

Oakwood Health Network is committed to men’s health and well-being. In treating mental and physical health issues, we know the importance of raising awareness for important issues like this. 

Now, you know too! 2022. Opioid- and Stimulant-related Harms in Canada. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2022]. n.d. Overdose basics. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2022].

Stop Overdose BC. 2021. Get Involved This International Overdose Awareness Day. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2022]. 1998. Opioid Overdose: Trends, Risk Factors, Interventions and Priorities for Action. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2022].

Opioids, n.d. [ebook] Penington Institute, p.1. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2022].

Depressants, n.d. [ebook] Penington Institute, p.6. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2022].

Stimulants, n.d. [ebook] Penington Institute, p.4. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2022].

Alcohol, n.d. [ebook] Penington Institute, p.5. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2022].