International Overdose Awareness Day is recognized every year on August 31. Death due to overdose has been on the rise in the United States, and from 2016 to 2017, the number of overdose deaths increased by 9.6% compared to previous years.
That number amounts to 70,237 drug overdose deaths according to the CDC, with synthetic opioids being the main drivers of overdose.
In 2016, over 66% of the 63,000-plus overdose deaths involved some form of opiate drug, and sadly opioids remain the number one cause of overdose.
It is important to recognize the awareness efforts of International Overdose Day and offer support to people who are addicted to drugs and their families to prevent others from dying due to drug-related causes.
Raising awareness will help to reduce the stigma of drug addiction and mental health issues that contribute to overdose deaths in the United States and around the world with the hopes that those who need treatment will seek help.
While more than 130 people die each day from an opioid overdose, creating an economic burden of $78.5 billion every year, it’s impossible to put a price tag on the human loss concerning friends and family members.
Opioids Are the Main Drivers of Overdose
People often use opioids to escape pain, and this pain can be physical or emotional. Opioids were previously regarded as safe, however the truly addictive nature of commonly prescribed painkillers, and the damage they can do, is now being exposed and understood.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just illegal opioids that we should be concerned about, as there has also been a sharp increase of opioid prescriptions written in the past two decades.
Most states have established prescription drug monitoring programs to curb the overprescribing of painkillers. While taking opioids after surgery can be effective, ongoing use of opioids can lead to dependence requiring addiction treatment.
Related: Opioid Addiction and Treatment
Drug Overdose Can Happen to Anyone
Many people falsely assume that only vulnerable populations in areas that are economically depressed are most likely to be affected by opioid addiction and drug overdose. In reality, the impact is felt in every socio-demographic group around the world.
Anyone can be affected by a drug overdose, and many of the deaths are accidental. Family and friends are left grieving after they lose a person to overdose. The story of Tom Petty, the famous American singer-songwriter shines a light on how opioid addiction can arise from truly unfortunate circumstances.
Tom Petty’s Story of Overdose
An autopsy on the famous singer Tom Petty revealed that he died from an accidental drug overdose. His organs failed and he had a heart attack due to a mixed drug toxicity.
Tom Petty was taking various prescription medications because of a wide range of medical conditions. The mounting medical issues climaxed after the singer insisted on touring with a fractured hip.
On the day of his death, it was reported that his fractured hip broke, probably resulting in unbearable pain. The honorable act of putting himself out there for his fans and work commitments while living with extreme pain is a story that many will understand and commend.
Unfortunately it proved to be too much and the world has lost one of the great ones.
6 Celebrities Who Died of a Drug Overdose
Many celebrities have died of an overdose, and they have usually been accidental. Mixing drugs (and alcohol) can create a lethal concoction in the body that too often leads to fatal consequences.
Below is a list of 6 celebrities who died of drug-related factors or overdose between 2014 and 2018:
1. Art Bell – Prescription Drugs
Art Bell was an American broadcaster and author who died of an accidental overdose at the age of 72. Bell was taking several prescription drugs including oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, and carisoprodol for health problems he suffered.
The combination of opioids and other prescription medications was probably too much for his system to handle all at once.
2. Lil Peep – Prescription Drugs – Fentanyl
Lil Peep was an American rapper and singer who died of an overdose of prescription drugs at the young age of 21. The toxicology report cited the cause of death from the drugs Fentanyl and Xanax, although blood and urine tests confirmed that other drugs were present in his system as well.
Even though he had a range of different drugs in his system, it was ruled as an accidental overdose.
3. Prince – Prescription Drugs – Fentanyl
Prince was an American singer and songwriter who died at the age of 57 from an accidental overdose of fentanyl. It is presumed that the fentanyl was in fake Vicodin pills that may have been purchased illegally.
Ironically, Prince had been in contact with a doctor who specializes in addiction medicine and was trying to help him with his addiction to pain medication.
4. Chyna – Prescription Drugs and Alcohol
Chyna (Joanie Laurer) was an American professional wrestler who died at the age of 46. The autopsy showed that Chyna died of an accidental overdose from a mixture of alcohol, prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety medications.
5. Scott Weiland – Illegal Drugs and Alcohol
Scott Weiland was an American musician, singer, and songwriter who died of an accidental overdose in 2015 at the age of 48. Weiland was found dead on his band’s bus in the middle of a tour for The Wildabouts.
The medical examiner ruled his overdose death as an accident due to alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs.
6. Philip Seymour Hoffman – Mixed Illegal and Prescription Drugs
Philip Seymour Hoffman was a famous actor who died at the age of 46 from an accidental overdose of heroin and other drugs in 2014. He was a gifted actor who had struggled with addiction early in his career and began drug treatment at the age of 22.
After rehab, he remained sober for 23 years until a relapse in 2013. He sought treatment again but died a year later.
International Overdose Awareness Day Campaign
Many deaths due to overdose are preventable, whether that is ensuring that drugs are not mixed, treating the underlying pain, or reducing prescriptions.
Some overdoses happen as a suicidal attempt to escape unbearable pain. Seeking help to heal pain, whether it is emotional or physical, is a critical step to reducing the mounting incidences of untimely death due to drug overdose.
The International Overdose Awareness Day website offers information and resources about increasing overdose awareness on a global level. The idea behind the campaign began in 2001 in Australia to reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths in addition to increasing awareness.
When a celebrity or famous person dies, we are saddened by the news, but it doesn’t compare to the grief felt by family members and close friends. The saddest part of all is that many drug overdoses are preventable.
Take a look at the Overdose Awareness website and see how you can participate or get involved in your local area. By bringing attention to this worthwhile cause, hopefully we can all help save more lives from drug-related deaths.
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