August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day.
Over the past few months, the issue of fatal drug overdose
has come to the forefront of public discussion. We’ve heard news reports of
young concert-goers dying from unknown “party drugs” and a recent Ontario-based
study showed that among people aged 25 to 34, one of every eight deaths is
related to opioids like OxyContin and codeine. In July, Health Minister Rona
Ambrose announced the intent to set tamper-resistant
standards for all opioids in an effort to curb the number of opioid-related
CAMH nurses Bonnie Cheuk (left) and Emily Katz support clients through the Addiction Medicine Service
Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is an annual global event held on August 31
that aims to raise awareness of the risks of overdose and prevent drug-related
death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering
those who have died or suffered permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.
Bonnie Cheuk and Emily Katz are nurses in the Addiction
Medicine Service (AMS) at CAMH. They provide case management for clients taking
medication for dependence on alcohol, opioids and/or benzodiazepines. Of the
people they see, the risk of overdose is highest among people who struggle with
opioid dependence, they say.
“So much of overdose prevention is about the surrounding
education,” says Bonnie, “especially with this clientele who are so stigmatized
in healthcare and in broader society. We
need to be able build therapeutic alliances so we can provide an opportunity
for people to succeed.”
Emily agrees. “We
provide education about the detox process, tolerance changes and help stabilize
people who are in crisis,” she says.
While much of their work focuses on medication compliance
and connecting clients with supportive resources, harm reduction also comes
into play. The AMS carries harm
reduction supplies like crack kits, clean needles,
sterile water, and filters that CAMH clients can access confidentially.
In addition to these supplies, developing meaningful
relationships with clients provides another safety net that helps reduce the
risk of overdose. “I’d rather people be unstable but here rather than on their
own,” Emily says.
How to mark IOAD:
- You can participate in IOAD by wearing silver on August 31
and by following CAMH on Facebook
and Twitter over the next few
More from CAMH experts: