2020 Campaign: “Time to remember, time to act
Established in 2001, by the Salvation Army in Australia, International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on August 31 each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. AILES and CUT join forces to raise awareness among the general public, key populations and the government about this still taboo and unrecorded cause of death. In Mauritius, overdose deaths are classified as a cause of death due to pulmonary edema. To date, at the local level, no statistics are available to evaluate the number of deaths by overdose. This is an unrecognized reality that needs to be addressed, not only to reduce the risks but also to bear witness to a very real scourge.
The risk of death by overdose is real, not only for people who inject drugs but also for people who use synthetic drugs. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of deaths could be avoided through risk reduction, notably through prevention with advice on injection methods, by recognizing symptoms and with the help of a first aid medication that is administered in the form of an intramuscular injection or inhalation, Naloxone. This drug, currently banned for private or community use in Mauritius, displaces the toxins from the receptor sites and slows the effects of intoxication and can prevent the death of the person injecting if used in time. The World Health Organization has listed Naloxone as an essential drug and recommends that countries improve access to it for people who may experience an overdose problem in their environment: friends, family members, partners of drug users, social workers and first aiders.
Another important issue to raise concerns the repercussions of assisting someone who has overdosed. Indeed, since drug use is criminalized, a person who saves another could be prosecuted for drug use, whereas in this case, it is a matter of assisting a person in danger. A change in the laws and the authorization for the use of Naloxone would save lives.
This day is also an opportunity to commemorate the loss and to pay tribute to the pain of the families and friends of those who have died by overdose.
A “position paper” has also been sent to the different ministries and the Prime Minister’s office to raise awareness of this issue.
On this occasion, a training day was also given to field workers, peer educators and partner associations to prevent risks and manage overdoses. With the support and intervention of First aiders