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International Overdose Awareness Day 2020

International Overdose Awareness Day is a campaign marked on the 31st of August each year, which aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. It was started in Melbourne, Australia in 2001 and since then has grown to a worldwide campaign to raise awareness of overdose and also to commemorate those individuals we have lost to overdose.

a global perspective on opioids abuse international overdose awareness day

An overdose is a situation where an individual takes too much of a substance and this causes a harmful reaction to that individual’s health, leading to illness, injury or even death. You can overdose on any substance if you take too much of it for your body to cope with. Even the most innocuous of drugs, such as over the counter or prescription medications can cause overdose and potentially kill if taken in large enough quantities.

In Scotland the main cause of overdose and drug related deaths in recent years has been ‘poly drug use’ - a situation where people who use substances take more than one substance at a time and the combination of these substances causes greater harm than they would normally do on their own.

Traditionally when we talk about ‘overdose’ people would automatically think about Opioid type drugs such as Heroin or Methadone but the reality is that you can overdose on any substance if you put too much of it into your body. 

In conjunction with opioids there has been an increaasing trend towards the use of Benzodiazepine type substances such as ‘Street Valium’ Xanax, Diazepam, Temazepam etc.

Benzodiazepines are depressant type drugs, which along with other depressants such as alcohol or opioids it can cause the bodily functions to slow down. If you overdose on these types of substances they can slow your lung function to the point that you cease to breathe. When this happens your brain becomes starved of oxygen, causing brain damage, organ failure and ultimately death.

Orkney ADP promotes awareness and uptake of Naloxone within our community. Naloxone is a medication which can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, allowing time for someone suffering an overdose to access lifesaving medical treatment. This medication is therefore important to promote to those who might encounter an opioid overdose especially the family and loved ones of someone who uses opioid type substances. We encourage anyone who knows an individual who uses opioids to get in touch and talk to us about Naloxone and how it can be accessed. 

Naloxone is a medication which will have no effect if administered to someone who is not suffering an opioid overdose, it will do no harm in such a situation.

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Naloxone is available free of charge on Orkney. Please contact Nodrhaven Clinic on 01856 888917 for further information - 

Naloxone  can also be ordered via post from the national charity, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs on their website - 

Scottish Drugs Forum also has a great free E-learning resource all about Naloxone which can e accessed on their website - 

Orkney ADP can arrange for training on the use of Naloxone for any organisation or individual who wishes it within Orkney. If you would like further information contact the Substance Misuse Development Officer, Matthew Thomas, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Links to both local and national support services for any individual who is concerned about their own substance use or the substance use of another can be found on our website here - 

Orkney Alcohol and Drugs Partnership