A note from our CEO

Over the last 20 years, a sharp increase in drug overdoses, and hundreds of thousands of senseless overdose deaths, have created a critical public health concern in the United States and around the world.

The data is alarming. From 1999 to 2017, the rate of death by overdose in people 15 years and older, rose from 6.1 to an astonishing 21 per 100,000 (NCHS Data Brief). In 2019 and 2020, largely due to fentanyl, Center for Disease Control data shows rates increased at a 30% and 15% rate, respectively. The trend continues upward with nearly 107,000 deaths by overdose recorded in the United States in 2021, with a staggering number of overdoses among young people.

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. On this day, we focus on the impact of drug overdoses, mourn those who have lost their lives, support their surviving loved ones, and encourage those seeking treatment. As a nation, we also work on prevention, drug policy, and reducing the negative social stigma associated with substance use disorders throughout the month.

Over time, we’ve learned that substance misuse is far more complex than a decision to use or not use. It is not a character weakness or a product of poor parenting. We understand through research into the science of addiction that there are emotional, behavioral, biological, environmental, and genetic components that make the path to recovery so difficult. We also know that the overdose epidemic has become even more challenging as deadly substances like fentanyl and xylazine — are being mixed into counterfeit prescription drugs and people are unintentionally overdosing without awareness about what they are taking.

While substance use continues to rise, communities grapple with the consequences. Not just the loss of friends and family members, but the costs of folks needing shelter, food and medical care. There is not one person or place that has not been touched by the issue of illicit substance use.

What I hope for this month, is that you attend an event in your community that is supportive of friends, families and coworkers, who are impacted by this epidemic – and that’s all of us. Consider participating in efforts in your community to secure housing or develop prevention and awareness programming for young people. Or take time to drop off some clothing at your local shelter. Each one of us can do SOMETHING. And I hope you will.

One more thing: Find out where you can pick up a NARCAN kit. This opioid overdose reversal drug may save a life. In most areas, it is free. In some areas, you may have to get it at the pharmacy. ASK! The nasal deployment system is easy to use, harmless to the patient, and is a critical rescue drug. HELP by having the kit available and know how to use it.

If you have questions about how you can be part of this awareness campaign, let me know. I’m happy to help you find out what is happening in your area.