International Overdose Awareness Day 2023

Ioana Cozma
Written by Ioana Cozma on 14 August 2023

International Overdose Awareness Day is an annual event held on August 31st to focus the public attention on the risks of drug overdose, remember those affected by overdose without stigma, support people with drug addiction, and promote prevention strategies.

In 2023, the theme of the overdose awareness event is “Recognizing those people who go unseen,” shining the light on the unknown people affected by the issue of overdosing.

International Overdose Awareness Day 2023

What is international overdose awareness day?

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is an international campaign held annually on August 31st. The first IOAD campaign took place in Victoria, Australia, under the direction of Sally J. Finn, a local needle and syringe program manager. The Penington Institute has supervised worldwide event coordination since 2012, with 40 countries recognizing it.

The international day of Overdose Awareness aims to commemorate without any negative bias those who lost their lives to or became severely injured by drug overdose, as well as support their grieving loved ones.

This event raises awareness of the risks of drug consumption and overdose, eliciting productive conversations that ultimately lead to better drug policy for overdose prevention. Additionally, IOAD offers an inclusive, bias-free, and safe environment for people mourning the lost lives of their loved ones while also educating the community about the risks of overdosing.

Similarly, the campaign offers a safe, inclusive space for people dealing with drug addiction, offering them valued support and information regarding available services.

2022-2023 overdose statistics

Provisional information from the CDC showed a slightly decreasing trend for overdose-related deaths, 2% lower in 2022 compared to 2021. However, adjustments for delayed reporting led to a slight increase of 0.5% between the two years, with 109,680 deaths in 2022 compared to 109,179 in 2021.

The highest increase in overdose fatalities was registered at 22% in the states of Washington and Wyoming, while South Dakota had the largest decrease of 18%, going from 102 to 84 casualties. Conversely, Iowa kept a consistent number of overdose deaths.

Other statistics show that the initial predicted number of opioid-related overdose deaths for 2022 was 82,998, higher than the expected figure of 82,310 casualties for 2021. However, the reported opioid-involved overdose casualties remained at 79,770 for 2022, slightly lower than the 80,997 casualties in 2021. Cocaine-related overdose deaths increased in 2022 compared to 2021.

What's being done about the overdose crisis?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have taken several measures to tackle the overdose crisis on multiple fronts.

SAMSHA enforces primary prevention by supporting education programs developed by states and communities and by bringing the pharmaceutical and medical community’s attention to the risks of overprescribing certain drugs that may cause addiction.

SAMSHA has also adopted specific prevention strategies, such as wider distribution of naloxone, a medicine that reverses the effects of opioid overdose efficiently, and which may become an over-the-counter medicine.

Additionally, the U.S. Administration believes in the harm reduction approach, with SAMSHA supporting community-based harm reduction programs that tackle factors increasing the risk of overdose, such as mental health and preexisting trauma. The association also supports peer workers directly involved with individuals exhibiting substance use disorder.

How can I get involved?

There are several ways to get involved in International Overdose Awareness Day, from promoting it to educating your community and healthcare providers.

Host or attend an event

People interested in contributing may participate in or host a local IOAD event. This gives yourself and your community a chance to remember those lost to or injured by overdose. As a result, you may become advocates of significant policy changes.

Share the core IOAD messages

People can download comprehensive resources on overdose awareness from the IOAD website. These educational resources may help you share the core IOAD messages on overdose prevention with your community, your healthcare providers, or on social media.

Remember your loved ones

Remember and celebrate loved ones affected by overdose. You may post a tribute on the event’s page or on your social media accounts to raise global awareness. It may also be healthy to remember your loved ones privately, honoring their lives by doing something in their memory.


Donations help the event continue annually. Additionally, the organizers can continue their community work to prevent more overdose deaths.


  1. Morris, J. (2020, August 31st). Twenty years of honouring drug-overdose victims. Others.
  2. (n.d.). International Overdose Awareness Day. Dumfries and Galloway Public Protection Partnership.
  3. (2023, May 18th). Provisional Data Shows U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Top 100,000 in 2022. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. Holleman, C., LCSW, LCAS (2022, August 31st). Overdose Awareness Day: Remember. Act. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  5. (2022, August 24th). International Overdose Awareness Day Partner Toolkit. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Activity History - Last updated: 17 July 2024, Published date:

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