(BPT) – From 2019 to 2020, drug overdose deaths increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United States alone, nearly 92,000 overdose deaths occurred in 2020. This increase has had a devastating impact on our nation’s communities, affecting people of all racial and ethnic groups, geographic areas and socioeconomic levels. In response to the increasing drug overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, launched four campaigns to help prevent overdose deaths and related harms. Specifically, the Stop Overdose campaigns provide information about the dangers of fentanyl, risks of polysubstance use, reversing opioid overdose with naloxone, and stigma education. Each educational campaign and its supporting materials is packed with information that can help save the lives of those who use drugs, or have addiction, as well as highlight actions the public can take to help prevent overdose.
Protecting people from the dangers of fentanyl
The presence of fentanyl in the drug supply has grown over the years and is a key contributor to overdose deaths. As a synthetic opioid, fentanyl is extremely strong, and it doesn’t take much to cause an overdose (2mg is considered a lethal dose, equivalent in size to a few grains of salt). If a drug is mixed with fentanyl, it’s nearly impossible to detect – it can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted. However, fentanyl test strips can determine if drugs have been mixed with fentanyl. Knowing the dangers of fentanyl and ways to protect oneself or others can help prevent drug overdose death.
Increasing awareness about polysubstance use
Polysubstance use is the use of more than one drug at the same time or within a short period of time. Understanding the risks of polysubstance use is an important factor in preventing drug overdose deaths. Even if people have mixed drugs before, their bodies could react differently each time. Whether polysubstance use is intentional or unintentional, mixing drugs is never safe because the effects from combining drugs may be stronger and more unpredictable than one drug alone, and even deadly.
Promoting the life-saving power of naloxone
Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications. It’s easy to use, convenient to carry, and is an effective way to reduce harm. Naloxone is available in all 50 states and territories, including Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., often without a prescription. Carrying naloxone can help a bystander provide life-saving and timely assistance for a person who has overdosed.
Reducing stigma toward people who use drugs
Substance use disorders (SUDs) may be viewed as a personal failure, something that an individual brought upon themselves based on bad decision making. However, SUDs are treatable illnesses. Stigma toward people who use drugs can be a barrier to treatment and recovery. It is important to reduce stigma toward people who use drugs, break down barriers to treatment, provide individuals the education and tools to find a treatment pathway that works for them, and support those who may be considering or are currently in recovery.
We all can play a role in saving lives
Overdoses are preventable and everyone can take action to help end the overdose epidemic in the United States. Use and share the information and materials from CDC’s drug overdose prevention campaigns to increase awareness of how we can work together to save lives from overdose and support people who use drugs to find a path toward treatment and recovery. Visit cdc.gov/stopoverdose to learn more or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) if you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder.