Overdose awareness and international day

Overdose awareness and international day

In France, each year, the public health authorities identify between 450 and 500 overdoses or overdoses. Situations that can lead to the death of the person affected and which concern overdoses of medication, drugs or alcohol. Since 2001, the international community of people who use drugs has organized an activist initiative every August 31, International Overdose Awareness Day.

overdose awareness

From dose to overdose or overdose

Overdose or overdose is defined as the consumption of one or more drugs, beyond the dose that the body can assimilate without harmful effects on health. The overdose can involve different substances:

  • Illegal drugs;
  • Alcohol ;
  • Certain medications, in particular: antidepressant medications, opioid medications;
  • Amphetamines and other stimulant substances (most often illicit).

To know ! In the case of illicit substances, simply taking the substance, let alone overdosing, has harmful health effects.

Clinical signs and health effects vary depending on the drug taken, the person’s state of health and the size of the overdose. Drug use and drug overdose can have serious health consequences, with significant repercussions on the functioning of vital organs. In some cases, the overdose can lead to the death of the affected person. In general, it should be remembered thatan overdose or overdose constitutes a medical emergency, which requires immediate treatment and therefore the call of the emergency and rescue services.

Remember to better act against overdose

The International Overdose Awareness Day aims to raise awareness among the general public and professionals about this major public health problem. For the 2022 edition, the theme chosen is “It’s time to remember, it’s time to act” (time to remember, time to act). This day revolves around several axes:

  • Public awareness of overdoses;
  • The fight against the stigmatization of deaths linked to overdoses;
  • The mobilization of actors in favor of a policy of prevention of drug use and the occurrence of overdoses.

This moment is also a privileged opportunity to think of the people affected directly or indirectly by overdoses, the victims of overdoses, who sometimes retain the after-effects of the overdose, but also families and loved ones. Through their experiences, it is possible to make as many people as possible aware of this major public health issue, which does not only concern drug users.

From drug misuse to overdose

Overdoses are for a significant proportion related to the misuse of drugs, prescribed on a medical prescription or freely available (self-medication). Several situations can lead to overdoses:

  • Non-compliance with the dosage indicated by the doctor;
  • The use of a drug for a person other than the one for whom it was prescribed;
  • The combination of several drugs that can interact with each other;
  • The use of a drug intended for adults in a child.

What is the most overdosed drug?

One of the best-known examples of drug overdose is paracetamol overdose.

It can lead to fulminant hepatitis, requiring an emergency liver transplant. In France alone, paracetamol overdose has caused more than 95,000 hospitalizations in ten years. Other medications, in particular analgesics or anxiolytics, are commonly misused, following an initial medical prescription for a given indication. However, these misuses can lead to an overdose. Faced with these situations, public health authorities are multiplying prevention messages. They also restrict the rules for prescribing and dispensing these drugs. At the same time, the management of patients who are victims of overdoses is developing and improving, in particular thanks to pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches.

Estelle B., Doctor of Pharmacy


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