UNITE Members Call for Action to End Overdose

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remembering without stigma those who have died and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.  Members of UNITE have joined the campaign to raise awareness of overdose as a Public Health crisis and stimulate action and discussion about evidence-based overdose prevention and Drug Policy

Drug overdose is one of the world’s worst Public Health crises. Over the last twenty years, drug overdose deaths have increased significantly in many parts of the world and each year a record number of deaths are reported.  

Our parliamentary commitment is needed for states to overcome this global problem, especially with a Human Rights approach. That is the slogan, that is the challenge. So we are called upon to open up the public debate, to put on the public agenda this issue that calls upon all of us as parliamentarians of the world.

- Hon. Pastor Vera Bejarano, Paraguay Tweet

At the same time, in most countries, reliable data on fatal and non-fatal overdoses are lacking. In many low-resource countries, overdose deaths are not reliably recorded and are instead classified as heart attacks or respiratory failure. This is in part due to the widespread stigma associated with drug use, fear of police harassment, political pressure, and inconsistent or inadequate coronial systems.  

The criminalization of drug use and the deep stigma associated with drug use mean that in many parts of the world, there is an overwhelming reluctance to acknowledge and report drug-related deaths, leaving overdose as an unseen Public Health crisis 

No one wakes up one day thinking I want to be an addict and it is an absolute shame that in most countries, the stigma, the lack of support, the criminalization, the general disdain by society allows for people to continue to suffer. Addiction is foremost a humanitarian problem, a health problem and it should be treated by governments as such.

- Hon. Sophia Moermond, Australia Tweet

Harms and deaths from drug use and overdose are preventable. There are many evidence-based policies, strategies, services and initiatives implemented the world to reduce overdose.  

The measures taken would be to introduce appropriate health and social policies, increase the availability and accessibility of naloxone, decriminalize personal drug use, de-stigmatize sufferers and support them and their families to recover and reintegrate into society.


– Hon. Adrian Belii, Republic of Moldova

Read the full article by Hon. Adrian Belii here.

Examples of evidence-based measures further include the introduction of medication-assisted treatment as part of treatment options for drug use problems; drug checking or drug testing services which analyze drugs to uncover any potentially dangerous substances; needle and syringe exchange programs, offering additional wrap-around social and health support services; and establishing supervised drug consumption rooms.  

International Overdose Awareness Day is a day when I acknowledge the friends and loved ones that I have lost to drugs. But I also acknowledge the thousands of people that we have saved because of sensible drug law reform, because of sensible services – highlights Hon. Fiona Patten, two-term Member of the Victorian Legislative Council, leader of the Reason Party and long-term advocate for drug law reform. The medically supervised injecting room in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, the constituency of Hon. Patten, has safely managed over 7,000 overdose incidents inside the facility in the last 5 years since it was opened 

One of the aims of International Overdose Awareness Day is to increase awareness of these evidence-based strategies and tools that can help prevent overdoses from occurring. The day also serves to highlight that the insights and knowledge of people who use drugs and people with lived and living experiences of overdose need to inform policy and services for an effective response  

I believe strongly that if we change our governmental policies to lead with Harm Reduction, to lead with dignity, we can actually deal with this issue all across the world.

-Hon. Gustavo Rivera, New York State, USA Tweet

Senator Rivera is currently sponsoring legislation in the New York State Senate that would enact the Safer Consumption Services Act and establish a program to provide overdose prevention center programs.

Overdose prevention and response requires a collective, comprehensive response from and collaboration between governments, organizations, service providers, experts, and the community.  

UNITE Members call on Members of Parliaments and other elected officials to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day, and support highlighting overdose as a public health crisis.  

There are numerous ways to participate in the campaign and stimulate action and discussion about evidence-based overdose prevention and drug policy. Resources and factsheets on overdose prevention and response are available at overdoseday.com. Follow the campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and engage with the online International Overdose Awareness Day community.  

Earlier this year, UNITE Members launched a Pledge to End the War on Drugs and Implement Human Rights-Centered Drug Policies, emphasizing the urgent need to shift toward drug policies that prioritize human rights and public health. 21 Members of Parliament from 16 countries have committed to the message, championing health policy approaches to drug use and drug-related issues. 

International Overdose Awareness Day calls for acknowledging and supporting the people in our communities who go unrecognized by raising awareness of the hidden impacts of overdose, promoting education of overdose response, and advocating for lasting, lifesaving policy changes.  

It’s time to remember. It´s time to act. It’s time to UNITE.

This day is a day when we pledge to do better, when we pledge to reduce stigma, when we pledge to treat people who use drugs equally and change the laws to protect them better.

– Hon. Fiona Patten, Australia Tweet

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