International Overdose Awareness Day: Recognizing the Unseen


International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is August 31, and is “the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died from overdose, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.” The theme of IOAD this year is “Recognizing those people who go unseen”, the folks who are affected by overdose but aren’t generally noticed in the crisis. IOAD is asking that this August 31, we recognize these unseen, or less seen, community members, family, and friends who also bear the burden of the overdose and deaths from the toxic drug supply. #weseeyou

You can do this by hosting or attending an IOAD event. Events are a powerful way to remember those lost to overdose, learn more about overdose, or advocate for change. Find an event near you.

You can also learn more, post a tribute or download their resources toolkit (including social media).


Moms Stop the Harm (MSTH) is one of the more visible communities of those who are deeply impacted by toxic drug deaths and overdose, and their ongoing advocacy and education supports families and people who use drugs. Using the IOAD toolkit, MSTH suggests you could:

  • Urge your mayor to officially declare August 31 as International Overdose Awareness Day.
  • Ask a local landmark to be lit up purple on the night.
  • Seek sponsorship for your IOAD activities.
  • Advocate for policy change through your local elected officials.

MSTH will be hosting a range of activities including protests, public naloxone training, public education and awareness, “Purple Ribbon” and “Purple Chair” campaigns and Candlelight Vigils of Remembrance, as part of IOAD 2023. You can find their BC events here (scroll down), if they are not on the IOAD page.


In tribute to some of the less, or unseen people holding grief, fighting stigma, and supporting hope, we also invite you to check out the following links:

Talk Overdose    

Talk Overdose is a group of Indigenous youth educating other youth about substance use and overdose. Started by middle and high school students, Talk Overdose is a project of Youth4Youth Canada, a social good organization founded and managed by four Indigenous girls of Swampy Cree and Mi’gmaq culture. One of their goals is to help people realize that substance dependence can affect anyone. Learn more about their partnership and work.


Organizing our grief: A collaboration in response to the overdose crisis

Via CATIE: “Organizing Our Grief: A Collaboration in Response to the Overdose Crisis” is a free online publication that aims to capture and communicate a mobile public artwork and event series called Wish You Were Here, Wish Here Was Better, that made space for people impacted by the ongoing overdose and toxic drug crisis. Central to WYWH, WHWB was a mural by artist Les Harper, entitled ekisâkihitin (“I love you” in Cree), that features the images of 19 people from the Peel region who died due to overdoses. The publication is shared with the CATIE community because of the important overlap between drugs and HIV. Not only do some individuals use drugs and live with HIV, but there is also a meaningful, historic and ongoing relationship between the response to the war on drugs and the response to HIV.


PODCAST – The role of families in substance use care  

In addition to being nurses and sisters, Christina and Lauren Chant advocate for a family member who uses substances in this episode of the Addiction Practice Pod. Having the dual perspective of working in health and as family support, they believe in the importance of encouraging clinicians to imagine the experience being a “patient.”