International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is global campaign, fighting to raise awareness of overdose and end the stigma associated to drug-related-deaths.

IOAD is marked every year on 31st August and provides the platform for professionals and the general public alike, to discuss how and what can be done to help end overdoses.

Below we have some ideas on how you can get involved in helping to raise awareness of overdoses and ultimately reduce and end drug-related deaths. Many people would like to help, but don’t know where to start, so we hope the information below is useful. We have also provided information about what has been done in Wales and the UK to help the IOAD to achieve its goals.

We will be posting multiple social media posts on our Facebook and Twitter accounts through the week commencing 24th August, relating to IOAD, culminating in several posts on the day itself (31st August). You can follow all posts from throughout the world via the hastags #EndOverdose #OverdoseAware #IOAD2020.


What can I do?

  • Know the signs. One of the easiest things anyone can do is learn what the signs of an overdose are and how to respond. There are many forms of an overdose, whether it be a heroin-related one or an overdose caused by alcohol or cocaine. If responded to adequately, many potential fatal overdoses can be a situation the individual survives. Check out our free ‘Overdose Awareness’ e-learning course we have available from 31st August. Also, don’t forget to scroll down to the ‘Downloads‘ section below for more information about the specific signs and symptoms of the different forms of an overdose.
  • Learn about naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid overdose antidote. It can save someones life. If someone uses an opioid like heroin or is prescribed pain killing medication like morphine or tramadol, then they could be at risk of experiencing an overdose if they take too much. If that person was to overdose, naloxone can help reverse the effects and bring them back to life. You can get trained in how to respond to an overdose and administer naloxone from any of our services. If you are prescribed opiate-based medication, talk to your GP about overdose. If you ever come across someone who has overdosed, call 999 straight away. For more information on naloxone, please click here as well as check out our YouTube playlist regarding opioid overdoses and how to administer naloxone.
  • Join the conversation.  Are you passionate about ending overdose? Would you like to see drug policy reform both here in Wales and through the UK? The best thing you can do is write to your MP and MS. That may sound daunting or you may not be too sure what to write, however Anyone’s Child have produced a template letter to set you on your way. There are many MP’s and MS’s out there who are supportive of looking at changing drug policy one way or another in Wales and the UK. Many drug-related policies are not devolved and therefore sit within Westminster and for any reform to take place, it is likely it will have to be passed via the UK Government. So getting your local MP on board is vital.
  • Find out more. Many say knowledge is power. So why not read up on substances, drug policy and the stories of those who have lost loved one’s to drug-related-overdoses. There are many books and websites out there that explain what substances are, the risks and harm reduction interventions. In Wales, we have a national drug and alcohol helpline service, DAN 24/7, which provides an A-Z of drugs. Additionally, look no further than Anyone’s Child, an international network of families whose lives have been turned upside down by the loss of a loved one and are now campaigning to change current drug policy and laws. You can check out the many stories of families who have suffered the grief of a loved one passing away from an accidental and preventable drug-related overdose here.
  • Know where you local drug and alcohol service is. Many services not only provide support for the person using substances, but also support those who are affected by another persons substance use. You can check out where your local Barod service is and how to access it here.


What has been done?

Well, in short, a lot over the years, but there is more work to do, as evidenced by the latest drug-related-death figures in Wales and the UK. Below are a few examples of good practice in terms of trying to reduce harm associated to substance use and ultimately, reduce drug-related-deaths:

  • in 2011, after an initial pilot, Wales introduced the nation-wide Take Home Naloxone (THN) Program. In addition to legislative changes in 2015, anyone can be trained and provided a naloxone kit, by a clinical professional such as a nurse or via your local drug and alcohol service. According to Public Health Wales Drug-Related Mortality 2018-19 annual report, a total of 9,033 individuals have been supplied with 22,977 THN kits throughout Wales since 1st July 2009.  There are currently 58 registered sites throughout Wales where THN is available and in 2018-19, 2,931 individuals were supplied with THN resulting in 4,224 THN kits supplied altogether. It is believed that without THN, many more people would have lost their lives in Wales due to an accidental and preventable drug-related-overdose. One recommendation made by Public Health Wales as a way to reduce the number of fatal drug-overdoses was to introduce a drug overdose medical amnesty. Check out what this means by downloading our short medical amnesty fact sheet in the ‘Downloads‘ section below.
  • It is a well known fact that if an individual who has a substance use disorder is not engaging with services like Barod, they are at heightened risk of experiencing a drug-related-overdose. Barod continually work hard to reduce any barriers for people to access our services. Over the years, there has been greater emphasis on going out to people and engaging with those deemed ‘hard to reach’. Outreach, alongside partnership working, is a pivotal way of delivering harm reduction interventions, whether it be providing naloxone and sterile injecting equipment to those on the street, or engaging with people and supporting them to enter treatment. We have also introduced our Live Webchat Service this year, the first of its kind for substance use in Wales, enabling people to gain instant access to a trained support worker and help someone access services in a timely manner. Barod is committed to working with all the Area Planning Boards in each region of operation, to help support people into entering services and receiving the support they desire.
  • In 2013, WEDINOS, a drug-checking service, went national in Wales. Facilitated by Public Health Wales, Cardiff Toxicology Laboratories at University Hospital Llandough and the School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University and funded by Welsh Government, it is the only active drug checking service in Europe (at the time of writing). Originally set up to identify New Psychoactive Substances in Wales, it has evolved over the years. With samples being received from throughout the UK, WEDINOS provides an overview of what type of substances are found in Wales and throughout the UK, enabling services like Barod to provide vital harm reduction information to those that may use or intend to use the same or similar substances.
  • Following record levels of drug-related fatalities in Scotland, heroin-assisted-treatment (HAT) was established in Glasgow in 2019. This was shortly after it being re-introduced in the UK in Middlesbrough by Foundations Teeside, as a way to help reduce the escalating fatalities but also support some of the most vulnerable individuals within our society. HAT is the practice of prescribing medical grade diamorphine, primarily to long-term dependent opioid users where more traditional treatment has not worked for these individuals. To see the step-by-step process of how this works in Middlesbrough, check out their YouTube video here.


And the list can go on in terms of what has been done to try and combat overdose. Could more be done? Discussions continue about establishing the UK’s first Drug Consumption Room as one method to reduce drug-related-deaths or to expand The Loop’s festival drug testing service to a more community-based model. We have also seen international evidence of the decriminalisation of the possession of drugs having a positive impact upon drug-related-deaths, none more so than in Portugal. However, such developments have their own legal challenges and this is where the support and backing of your MP is so vital, if you support such changes.

For more information about the International Overdose Awareness Day campaign, and how you can get involved, please visit the official website and don’t forget to check out the resources below.