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Opioid Overdose: A Preventable Tragedy

By Elevate Health

Overdose deaths in the U.S. hit a record high of 93,000 in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, overdoses are preventable tragedies, which is one of the reasons why Aug. 31 is being recognized as International Overdose Awareness Day.

Overdose Awareness Image

Image Source: Provided by the CDC on 7/4/2021

The image above displays the 38.4% increase in opioid overdose across the U.S. during 2020 compared to the previous year.

International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held annually every Aug. 31 for the past 20 years, aims to raise awareness about overdose, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths, and give space for families and friends to grieve those who have died or experienced a permanent injury from drug overdose.

This past year, full of stressors for many such as the pandemic, racial strife, trauma, depression, and anxiety, has resulted in an accelerated use of opioids nationwide.

According to official reports, many street-level drugs are now laced with Fentanyl, the most potent opioid, which is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, thus adding even more danger to unregulated substances in the community.

In just the first half of 2021, opioid poisonings in Pierce County have trended higher than in previous years, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the CDC both report similar trends across the state, as well as the rest of the U.S.

Elevate Health joins forces with its community partners this International Overdose Awareness Day to increase awareness, reduce stigma, improve health, and address many of the barriers that exist for people who have substance use disorders.

Kim Bjorn, Elevate’s Community Care Network Director of Integration and Transformation, said although International Overdose Awareness Day is recognized on Aug. 31, for many the struggle continues year-round.

“Addiction can happen to anyone,” said Bjorn. “We need to end the stigma around addictive substances.”

As a member of the Tacoma-Pierce County Opioid Taskforce, Elevate Health concentrates on prevention and education, access to treatment and offering individuals the right services at the right time.

In addition, Elevate Health is engaged with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington and the network of Accountable Communities of Health across the state to collaborate on addressing the opioid crisis.

Interested in getting involved? To learn more about the Pierce County Overdose Awareness Campaign or the Pierce County Opioid Taskforce (OTF), contact Chelsea Amato at camato@tpchd.org or (253) 720-7483.

Opioid overdose can happen to anyone and is completely preventable. If you or someone you know is experiencing addiction, please use the resources listed below:

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