Share Facts, Save lives on International Overdose Awareness Day


Vienna (Austria), 31 August 2021 – International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is an opportunity to commemorate those who have lost their lives, to acknowledge the grief of families and friends left behind, to double efforts to end avoidable overdose deaths, and to end overdose.

According to the World Drug Report (UNODC, 2021), about 275 million people used drugs at least once in the previous year. Death related to drug use disorders (mainly due to overdose) has increased by 45% over the last decade (UNODC, 2021) and COVID-19 appears to have accelerated the trend of increasing overdose deaths (UNODC, 2021).

The Stop-Overdose-Safely (S-O-S) initiative

The UNODC/WHO S-O-S initiative is a platform for exchange and to support effective prevention and management of overdose. The community surrounding people who use drugs are potential first-responders. As such, the S-O-S initiative promotes training on how to recognize and deliver lifesaving treatment and care with Naloxone1 in the event of an overdose to people likely to witness an overdose.  

This community approach to prevention empowers people who use drugs, their friends, and family members to save lives. In the framework of the UNODC/WHO SOS project, 14,263 people were trained and almost 16,278 naloxone kits have been distributed in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Ukraine in only eight months.

Besides practical know-how on safely administering Naloxone, this project ultimately helped reduce stigma and increase trust among the community. “What could be more important than to learn how to save someone’s life!”, said a person likely to witness an overdose in Tajikistan.

Continued SOS trainings in Ukraine

Leading up to International Overdose Awareness Day 2021, UNODC and the “Club Eney”, a Ukrainian NGO working with people who use drugs and providing them with low-threshold services to reduce the negative health and social consequences of drug use, continued with trainings following the Stop Overdose Safely (S-O-S) Project.

National trainers who participated in a training of trainers, recently gave a training for 25 participants in Kyiv, Ukraine, who may be potential overdose witnesses.

Celebrating International Overdose Awareness Day

To commemorate IOAD on 31 August 2021, join UNODC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP) in this webinar on “Evidence-Based Approaches to Opioid Overdose Recognition and Management: Share the facts – Save Lives” from 13:00 PM till 14:45 PM CEST.

Naloxone is an emergency medication that can prevent death among people who have overdosed from opioids, if administered in time.

Further information

UNODC would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement of the State Department of United States of America for the SOS project and study in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine, and reaffirms its commitment to advancing evidence-based approaches in saving lives through effective prevention and treatment of drug use disorders, and by enhancing access to emergency management of overdose in the community.  

The S-O-S study report is now available in Russian.

UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section