[Trigger Warning: illicit drugs, suicide, death]
“Rethink and Remember” is the tagline of International Overdose Awareness Day, marked on August 30th, which aims to bring awareness, challenge perceptions, and remember those affected by drug-related death .
An overdose is the act of taking more of a prescription drug than required, or the taking of an illegal drug in doses higher than would be typically used, in amounts or combinations that the body cannot process as it might in smaller amounts . An overdose may be intentional (to commit suicide) or accidental (being unaware of one’s actions due to drug effects or psychological state), and does not always result in death. In the US, 44 people per day die from overdose of prescription pain medications —the total number of drug related overdoses recorded in the US in 2013 was nearly 44,000 people .
In the case of mental health concerns specifically, I often find that stories of an individual’s personal experiences can help people understand better than simply reading the facts. Canadian Singer-Songwriter Matthew Good was diagnosed with Type 1 Bipolar Disorder in 2006, a disorder that causes extreme psychological swings from depression to euphoria/mania (a feeling of being extremely driven to do certain things and being unable to stop, which may, for example, lead to not sleeping for days at a time followed by an emotional crash, or depressive episode). I could summarize this video by noting that Good’s bipolar disorder diagnosis was made following an overdose of prescribed medication used to treat anxiety/depression. It is a completely accurate summary, but, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The reality of drug overdose within the context of mental illness is very complicated, and this video explains very well that overdose—even in those with mental illness—may not be at all intentional.
If you are struggling with drug addiction, depression, or any other mental illness or circumstances that may cause an increased risk of suicide, it is important not to go through it alone. In the US and Canada, there are many helplines that can provide support, in addition to your physician, counsellors, or other physical or mental health professionals.
USA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Canada – Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse Provincial helpline directory.
International Suicide Prevention Wiki – Find help in your community.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline [USA/Canada] – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
By instant message:
This is in no way a comprehensive list of supports available. If you are in crisis, call 911 or your local emergency number for immediate support.
If you have mental health issues, and/or take any medications that may have adverse effects when taken with alcohol, but still choose to consume alcohol—whether regularly or casually—it is important to wear medical ID jewelry to alert those around you to your medical needs in case of an emergency or mental health crisis.