International Overdose Awareness Day 2021

International Overdose Awareness Day 2021

Time to remember. Time to act.

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. The day began in 2001 in Melbourne, Australia and has grown to be the largest annual global campaigns to end overdose. With one of the slogans being, “Time to Remember. Time to Act.”

The World Drug Report (2021) stated that an estimated 275 million people used drugs in 2020 and that drug related deaths have increased 45% over a decade. In the US in 2020, it was estimated that over 93,000 lives were lost to overdose. This overdose crisis is not just about opioids either. Due to prohibition, fentanyl and other synthetics are becoming increasingly common across the drug supply. And in a Boston Medical Center analysis, CDC data showed that between 2010-2019, young people ages 13-25 in the US experienced a 351% increase in overdose deaths involving stimulants.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy is dedicated to ending the War on Drugs that continues to steal lives and disproportionately devastates generations of communities of color.


SSDP’s Executive Summary Federal Policy Agenda for the 117th Congress

Today, we would like to re-share our Policy Agenda for the 11th Congress that includes crucial policies proven to reduce overdose deaths and protect people who use drugs.

The US 117th Congress began on January 3, 2021 and ends on January 3, 2023. 

1. End federal cannabis prohibition with reparative justice measures

Top ask: Pass comprehensive legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act that also includes provisions to allow for expungement and resentencing; prevents deportation for marijuana conduct; and allows those who have been harmed by marijuana enforcement to fully participate the regulated cannabis economy (ie. the MORE Act or similar legislation).

2. Fully fund juvenile justice reform and remove obstacles to opportunity

Top ask: End the School-to-Prison pipeline through measures such as, but not limited to, fully funding the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

3. Reduce barriers to scientific research 

Top ask: Remove all barriers specific to researching Schedule I substances, including ending the so-called NIDA-monopoly on cannabis research and funding restrictions in Section 509 of Labor-HHS Appropriations.

4. Mitigate the overdose crisis through harm reduction policies 

Top ask: Fund and ensure wide-scale access to life-saving interventions such as naloxone, drug checking, and sterile syringes while removing barriers for methadone, buprenorphine, and other medications for substance use disorders.

5. Foster international drug policy reform 

Top ask: Terminate support for drug enforcement programs in countries which encourage extra-judicial killings or employ the death penalty and other inhumane measures for drug-related crimes

6. Thoroughly change our punitive approach to substance use, sentencing, and imprisonment 

Top ask: Decriminalize personal drug use, possession, and possession with intent to distribute personal use quantities of a controlled substance.



Access To Harm Reduction

Interested in creating change on campus or in your community? Here are some recommendations from our Access to Harm Reduction campaign toolkit:

Harm reduction based policies can be implemented at the campus, local, or state level and should include a public opinion and education campaign.

Public opinion and education

  • Devote a chapter meeting to educate chapter members and the community on harm reduction and what they can do to advocate for harm reduction.
  • Write a Letter To the Editor (LTE) about the importance of harm reduction. 
  • Invite a Harm Reduction Expert to your campus.

Campus Change

  •  Persuade Student Government, Administrators, and Faculty Government to Support Harm Reduction Policies and Programs. 
  • Some examples of policies:
    •  Establish formal harm reduction policies for student groups hosting parties on campus.
    •  Advocate for naloxone access on campus. 
  • Some examples of programs:
    • Start a drug resource center on campus. 
    • Coordinate a naloxone training.
    • Start a peer-to-peer education program on campus.
    • Start a Safe Ride program. 
    • Start a Group Walk program. 
    • Start a party monitor program. 

State/Municipal/Federal Reform

  • Advocate for state or federal overdose prevention programs and policies. 

Need more supplies for tabling? Don’t forget about to request a new, update care package!



Network #IOAD21 Highlights

Kentucky SSDP

Kentucky SSDP organized a fundraiser selling harm reduction related stickers. The plan is to put those funds toward fentanyl testing strips and/or drug testing kits. Kentucky Syringe Service Programs (SSP) are not universal in offering substance testing as a form of harm reduction. Kentucky SSDP is a young chapter and did not exist 6 months ago. This is the first event hosted by our chapter. It was a wonderful experience and we will use it as a foundation for future events as well.” –Tristan Harris ’21, SSDP Kentucky Chapter Leader


University College Cork (UCC) SSDP and SSDP Ireland

UCC SSDP and SSDP organized a demonstration and memorial held on Angelsea Street for Overdose Awareness Day.

  • “The event in Cork is the only one registered in Ireland. It affects a lot of people, the most recent data we have on overdosing in Ireland is from 2017 and shows 376 lives were lost that year. That year was the first since 2013 that the amount increased. The rates people were dying was dropping from 2013 to 2016 but it started to pick up again so it’s really important that we talk about it. Tuesday’s event has two aspects, we’re remembering those lost and supporting their friends and families. There’ll be 376 candles for those who lost their lives and people can come along and flick the switch for their loved ones.” –Emily Shilling ‘19

Cork event marking International Overdose Awareness Day next week


Students for Sensible Drug Policy Foundation

In memory of those we’ve lost, and in celebration of those still with us, HIPS will be hosting our annual International Overdose Awareness Day event on Tuesday, August 31st at Marvin Gaye Park. Join us for a cookout and live musical performance from singer/songwriter Tony Aye, testimonials, a community conversation, HIV/HCV testing, Narcan training and distribution, music (including a live musical guest performance), and a tribute to the late Maurice ‘Moe’ Abbey-Bey, HIPS’s Syringe Services Coordinator whose tireless work made our annual IOAD events possible. 

This event will also feature the AU Humanities Truck, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Revise Inc., and other community partners.

Where: Marvin Gaye Park / Riverside Recreation Center, 5200 Foote Street NE, Washington, DC 20019

“Doors” at 4pm ET, Program begins at 5pm ET


Full International Overdose Awareness Day 2021 Event Calendar


Join a Committee

Want to get more involved across the SSDP network?

  • US Policy Council – policy@ssdp.org
    • Cannabis Policy – cannabis@ssdp.org
    • Drug Decriminalization – decrim@ssdp.org
    • Global Drug Policy and UN Advocacy – globalpolicy@ssdp.org
    • Harm Reduction – harmreduction@ssdp.org
    • Psychedelic Policy – psychedelicpolicy@ssdp.org
    • Scientific Research – research@ssdp.org
    • Sentencing and Juvenile Justice – sentencing@ssdp.org
  • Intersectionality Committee – lunadelmar.suescun@board.ssdp.org
  • Internetwork Collaboration Committee – kat.ebert@board.ssdp.org
  • SSDP Europe Working Groups – roisin@ssdp.org
  • SSDP Africa Working Groups – roisin@ssdp.org
  • International Fundraising Working Group – roisin@ssdp.org
  • International Outreach & Membership Working Group – iulia@ssdp.org


Some Staff Must Reads



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The FDA’s Attack on Kratom

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International Overdose Awareness Day’s Tributes

International Overdose Awareness Day has a space on their page to view and post tributes to those who died or have been injured due to overdose. Please view that here.