International Overdose Awareness Day

August 1, 2023

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remove stigma, and remember and acknowledge both those who have died from overdose, and those who have been left behind as a result.

The theme of this year’s initiative is all about recognizing those who go unseen – but who are nevertheless affected by overdose, as it touches people and communities in so many ways. 


We want to help amplify this cause as much as possible, and one small way to do this is by using this year’s campaign hashtag to grow awareness. So, in solidarity with IOAD, to the families and friends who may be grieving a loved one, workers in healthcare and support services, or first responders who save lives every day – we would also like to say, #weseeyou. 

Ways to help as an employer

There are many ways you can support your employees who struggle with addiction themselves or within their family. Creating a list of resources and addiction treatment options for reference can be informative and helpful and should be made available and accessible to all employees. Additionally, providing healthcare benefits that can include financial coverage on addiction assessment, treatment, aftercare and counseling can lift the financial burden some individuals and families face when it comes to getting the help they need. 

What else can we do?

Creating safe spaces is so key in this effort. We may work with people who struggle in silence and it’s our job to help them feel heard and respected without stigma, to support them, and to let them know their office is, and should be, a safe space. 

International Overdose Awareness Day has a webpage full of helpful, educational information and press kits to take your own initiatives at work, and resources for reaching out to politicians to make lasting, lifesaving policy changes.

Ideas for how to honour IOAD at work and in your community:

  • Create a collective art installation
  • Hold a candlelight vigil
  • Offer an educational program, such as one related to preventing opioid use, in partnership with a local organization
  • Provide a safe space for telling the stories of overdose victims
  • Display empty hats or shoes to represent the number of lives lost in the community
  • Add the name of a loved one who died of an opioid overdose to the Celebrating Lost Loved Ones map
  • Purchase or create purple wristbands, pins, shirts or other items and wear them on Aug. 31st

Signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose

It is critical to be able to recognize the signs of an overdose in order to act as quickly as possible. These include:

  • Difficulty walking, talking, staying awake
  • Blue or grey lips or nails
  • Very small pupils
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Choking, gurgling or snoring sounds
  • Slow, weak or no breathing
  • Inability to wake up, even when shaken or shouted at

Naloxone Kits

Naloxone – a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose – saves lives. It is an opioid antagonist—meaning it binds to opioid receptors, and can reverse and block the effects of common opioids, like fentanyl, heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. 

Keeping a Naloxone Kit in your office just in case is always a good idea, and can be obtained at your local pharmacy. HOWEVER, IT ONLY REVERSES THE OVERDOSE TEMPORARILY, and is meant to buy time until paramedics arrive. MAKE SURE YOU CALL 911 RIGHT AWAY IF YOU SUSPECT SOMEONE MAY BE SHOWING SIGNS OF OVERDOSE.

For a comprehensive Naloxone fact sheet, visit:

Visit for more on how else you can take initiative in your own community.