HEALTH ARTICLES

INTERNATIONAL OVERDOSE AWARENESS DAY

INTERNATIONAL OVERDOSE AWARENESS DAY

 
International overdose awareness day is a global event held on 31st August of every year. It is a day set aside to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.
The celebration spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose is preventable. Thousands of people, from all walks of life, die each year from drug overdose. Therefore, it is important we understand the impact of drug use and overdose on ourselves, friends and family. 
 
International overdose awareness day is a global event held on 31st August of every year. It is a day set aside to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.
The celebration spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose is preventable. Thousands of people, from all walks of life, die each year from drug overdose. Therefore, it is important we understand the impact of drug use and overdose on ourselves, friends and family. 
What Drugs Can Be Abused?
It is important to differentiate between drug abuse and drug overdose. Drug abuse refers to the use of illicit drugs or prescription (or OTC) drugs for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts. Drug overdose, on the other hand, refers to taking an excessive amount of a drug. Any drug can be overdosed; however drug overdose is more likely to occur with drug abuse.
Drugs that can be abused include
  • Most common illicit drug abused  is cannabis (Indian hemp)
  • Opioids including heroine
  • Prescription drugs or over-the-counter (OTC) medications eg tramadol, cough syrup, tranquilizers, sedatives, etc.
  • Stimulants eg cocaine, estacy, amphetamines.
  •  Solvents and inhalants eg glue, fuel, etc.
  • Tobacco and alcohol
Drug abuse leads to drug dependence and possibly, drug overdose. Drug overdose may be accidental or intentional.
 
Incidence
There is no information on the statistics of drug overdose in Nigeria. Global statistics show that about 13% of the total number of persons who use illicit drugs suffer from drug use disorders. In Nigeria, the drug use prevalence is slightly higher than the global prevalence and it lies at 14.4%.
Worldwide there are a number of celebrities who have suffered drug-related deaths.
 
 
Risk Factors
Some of the factors are related to use of illicit drugs eg cannabis, cocaine  while others are related specifically to prescription drugs:
  • Poor economic conditions- The burden of struggling under poverty causes some people to indulge in drug abuse, so as to escape their realities.
  • Lack of information- Lower perception of the risks associated with drug use has been linked to higher rates of drug use and abuse. This is especially true among youths.
  • Crisis in personal life eg marriage, job, relationships, etc.
  • History of mental disorders- Depression and suicidal thoughts can be overdose triggers
  • Improper storage of drugs- Improperly stored drugs can be easy targets for children who may accidentally swallow them.
  •  Not knowing or following drug prescription instructions- Even adults can overdose on prescription drugs, if they do not follow the instructions for use. Taking too many tablets or taking drugs too frequently can lead to drug overdose.
  • Lack of support systems- Having strong support systems can help anyone overcome difficult times. When such support is absent, some turn to drugs for succor.
 
 
While the impact of COVID 19 pandemic on drug challenges is not fully known, the analysis suggests the pandemic has increased economic challenges (due to job losses during the lockdown) with worsening mental health conditions. These represent factors that could push more people into inappropriate drug use with the risk of drug overdose. 
 
Prevention: 
Unfortunately, most cases of drug overdose result in untimely death as they are not discovered early enough or sufferers do not have quick access to medical help. Thus prevention would play a big role. Solutions to reducing the impact of drug overdose would include:
  • Mass education especially youths, secondary school students in particular, on the dangers and possible health related effects of drug abuse.
  • Provision of structured treatment and other services for drug users
  • Economic empowerment
  • Proper counseling on use of prescription medications. This should be clearly written out and explained to the patient or caregiver.
  •  Availability of mental health services as well as reduction of stigmatization of those who access these services.
 
 

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