Every day, an average of 273 Americans die of a drug overdose. That’s more than 100,000 people last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Next week, in observance of International Overdose Awareness Day Aug. 31, Oregon Health & Science University will join a global campaign to reduce stigma and raise awareness about the risk of overdosing — and the importance of widely distributing life-saving naloxone to rapidly reverse the effect of overdose.
On Tuesday, Aug. 30, OHSU health care experts will provide information and training to anyone who wishes to use naloxone, also known by the trade name Narcan. Oregon law allows anyone to carry and use naloxone, and bystanders witnessing a suspected overdose can give naloxone with an easy-to-use nasal spray.
A booth will be set up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30, during the Farmers Market in the public grassy area in the center of OHSU’s Marquam Hill campus, near the fountain in front of Mackenzie Hall. Journalists are invited to visit the location and interview experts, and are asked to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org if they plan to attend.
The goal is to raise awareness and save lives.
“Every overdose death is preventable,” said Honora Englander, M.D., professor of medicine (hospital medicine and general internal medicine) in the OHSU School of Medicine, and director of an innovative in-hospital addiction intervention program known as Project IMPACT.
According to the CDC, in almost 40% of overdose deaths, someone else was present — someone who could have provided naloxone if they had it and knew how to use it.
OHSU pharmacist Emily Skogrand, Pharm.D., would like to see naloxone become as common as carrying a smartphone or keys.
“You never know when you’re going to be in a situation when you would need naloxone,” Skogrand said. “It may seem intimidating for a non-clinician, but it’s easy to administer and we encourage everyone to take a few minutes to learn how to use it.”
CDC data also show that the risk of overdose disproportionately impacts communities of color, driven by barriers to accessing substance use treatment.
“Black and American Indian/Alaska Native communities are experiencing overdose rates two and three times, respectively, than that of white Oregonians,” said Bradley Buchheit, M.D., an assistant professor of family medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine who directs the HRBR clinic at OHSU. “We must do more to ensure that Oregonians who identify as Black and American Indian/Alaska Native have culturally specific, on-demand, low-barrier access to lifesaving medications for opioid use disorder and naloxone.”
In addition to the public event, OHSU clinicians, including those with Project IMPACT and a low-barrier treatment clinic known as Harm Reduction and Bridges to Care, or HRBR, will set up a booth inside OHSU Hospital to provide information about naloxone and other measures to support individuals with substance use disorders.
“We hope the activities for International Overdose Awareness Day will be a catalyst for much broader education and engagement to end overdose and improve addiction care,” Englander said.