Health, Recovery Officials Speak Out About Overdose Awareness
Newtown’s Health District Director and the founder of the Newtown Parent Connection are teaming up to remind residents about International Overdose Awareness Day and Recovery Month.
According to the The National Safety Council, International Overdose Awareness Day is an annual global event held August 31 to remember those gone too soon from overdose deaths.
“While I think Overdose Awareness Day is pretty much every day, August 31 is an opportunity for us as a community to observe when overdose awareness takes on an international emphasis,” said Health District Director Donna Culbert.
“The last day of August is a day to remember how important it is to recognize signs of overdose to save a life, as well as the many important prevention messages that can save lives as well,” she added. “Overdose death is preventable, so we should all know what to do if it happens and we’re in a position to help.”
Ms Culbert said the website overdoseday.com has some very good information and guidance.
The site defines an overdose as “having more of a drug (or combination of drugs) than your body can cope with.”
There are a number of signs and symptoms that show someone has overdosed, the site states — and these differ with the type of drug used. All drugs can cause an overdose, including prescription medication prescribed by a doctor.
It is important to know the right amount and the right time to take medication. It is also vital to know what drugs should not be mixed and to seek help if you or someone you are with feels you or they are not in control of your drug use.
“There are many things that a person can overdose on,” Ms Culbert said. They include alcohol, depressants, opioids, stimulants, new psychoactive drugs, even over-the-counter allergy and pain relief medicines.
Overdose Prevention Resources
The local health official said that overdoseday.com publishes a number of specific factsheets Newtown residents can access:
Opioids: overdoseday.com/wp-content/uploads/IOAD-Factsheets_A4-1.pdf; and
“These fact sheets provide useful descriptions of how the different drugs or alcohol act on the body, what the signs of overdose look like, what the overdose response should be, what the recovery position looks like, and what not to do in the event of a suspected overdose,” Ms Culbert said.
Locally, a broader resource for individuals and families in Newtown, the Need Help brochure was developed by the Chamber of Commerce and a number of local partners, including The Newtown Bee, to provide local, trusted resources to direct those looking for support and assistance when they may be in the throes or aftermath of a crisis and don’t know where to turn.
Copies of the brochure — which can ideally be posted on a home memo board or kitchen refrigerator — are available at the Health District, The C.H. Booth Library, and at The Bee’s office while supplies last.
“As difficult, challenging, and oftentimes devastating the subject and incidence of overdose is, I still consider us fortunate here in Newtown,” Ms Culbert said. “We are a caring, educated, and hardworking community and have an abundance of highly trained professionals to respond to and care for our residents and our loved ones.”
The National Safety Council notes that opioid overdose deaths in particular have reached alarming numbers in the US in recent years.
Of the 61,311 preventable drug overdoses in the country in 2017, more than 43,000 involved opioids. Preventable opioid overdose deaths increased nearly 14 percent in 2017 from 2016 and are up 633 percent since 1999.
In Connecticut, Dr James Gill, the state’s chief medical examiner, reported that 1,017 residents died of accidental overdose in 2018 — up from 357 in 2012.
“Opioid misuse touches one in every four Americans, and these deaths are completely preventable,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “International Overdose Awareness Day is an opportunity for those who have lost loved ones to remember and reflect. It is also a time to reduce stigma and prevent future deaths by supporting education and advocacy efforts.”
Community members are encouraged to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day by hosting or attending a candlelight vigil, participating in an educational program on how to administer the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, disposing of unused medications, or sharing an art-based project memorializing lives lost.
National Recovery Month
Newtown Parent Connection founder Dorrie Carolan said her nonprofit is unfortunately as busy as ever assisting residents and their loved ones in finding recovery and detox programs for themselves or loved ones, as well as hosting support groups for those recovering and those who have lost loved ones to substance abuse and overdose.
“National Recovery Month is time to celebrate those who are living in recovery,” Ms Carolan told The Bee. “It’s a time to show that together we can and will make a difference.”
This September marks the 30th Anniversary of the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) establishing Recovery Month. The 2019 theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger.”
SAMHSA says Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible.
In addition, Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.
“Each day, we at Newtown Parent Connection look to increase awareness and understanding of the disease of addiction,” Ms Carolan said. “We need to remove the stigma since this disease touches each and every family in some way. It could be a spouse, child, or any loved one, a friend or acquaintance. It’s an insidious disease, but it’s true that many people can and do recover. We see people each day who are living healthy and rewarding lives through hard work and the support of others.”
She said the Parent Connection and its supporters see National Recovery Month as an “opportunity to share stories of success of those who have mental and substance abuse disorders and hope that we can encourage those who continue to suffer to come out and assist them in getting the resources for treatment and recovery support.”
Newtown Parent Connection provides free services each Thursday from 7 to 9 pm for families of loved ones who are recovering or in the throes of substance abuse. A licensed facilitator will help guide attendees through the process and answer any questions.
“Our meetings are confidential,” Ms Carolan added, “and will help you realize that you are not alone through this long, painful journey.”