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Hundreds of Communities Take Action on Overdose Crisis

Harm Reduction Advocate Acxel with a mobile service van. This image was part of Vital Strategies’ Overdose Prevention Program’s national “Support Harm Reduction” campaign.

The United States once again topped 100,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2022, with recent deaths rising fastest among Black and Indigenous communities. Overdose is now the leading cause of death for people under 50 in the U.S.

On International Overdose Awareness Day, observed each year on Aug. 31, we honor lives lost to overdose and recognize the harms of stigma toward people who use drugs—that it not only heightens the risks of drug use, but also mars the memory of those lost to overdose.

Started in 2001 in Melbourne, Australia, International Overdose Awareness Day is a global initiative to end overdose, remember those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of family and friends left behind.

This year, Vital Strategies has joined hundreds of organizations and government agencies across the country that are mounting community memorial events to raise awareness and support for harm reduction services—a proven public health solution to the overdose crisis.

We’ve mailed out more than 300 DIY campaign boxes full of content and products to help organizations hold their own Support Harm Reduction event in their communities.

The International Overdose Awareness Day national action is part of Vital’s award-winning “Support Harm Reduction” multimedia campaign, which highlights key interventions that are proven to save lives. A central component of the campaign is an interactive online memorial honoring the lives of people who have died from a drug overdose.

More than 300 “Support Harm Reduction” DIY boxes have been mailed to organizations and advocates around the U.S. who are organizing events for International Overdose Awareness Day (August 31, 2023) and beyond.

Vital Strategies is working to ensure everyone has access to harm reduction services, including these five specific interventions:

  • Naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses
  • Drug-checking resources such as fentanyl test strips
  • Safer drug use supplies such as sterile syringes
  • Overdose prevention centers for supervised use
  • Methadone and buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder 

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we’ve teamed up with top radio personalities to combat spiraling overdose deaths in Black communities. The campaign airing on three local stations promotes naloxone as a lifesaving tool.

We’ve also worked with to create guides detailing how every state in the U.S. is receiving and planning for opioid settlement funds. These funds provide a critical opportunity for enhanced investment in strategies to counter the national overdose crisis.

Access more news and resources below, and sign up to our Overdose Prevention Program’s email list to get the latest news on our resources and campaigns in your inbox. Read more about our work to prevent overdose here.

More Overdose Prevention Resources

Over 100,000 people die from overdose in the United States each year. Learn how harm reduction can help end the crisis of overdose.

Access more resources from our Overdose Prevention Program.


See more features from our Overdose Prevention Program.