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International Overdose Awareness Day 2020

‘Time to remember, time to act. This is more important than ever’



Minister announces new online overdose awareness resources to mark International Overdose Awareness Day, Monday 31st August

Minister Frank Feighan, Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy has today launched new HSE overdose awareness resources at a virtual event to mark International Overdose Awareness Day. 

The HSE, the Department of Health, the Union of Students in Ireland and partner agencies, hosted this virtual event to commemorate those who have died or suffered permanent injury due to drug overdose as well as to raise awareness of current overdose concerns.

Observed on the 31st of August every year, International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) seeks to create better understanding of overdose, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths, and create change that reduces the harms associated with drug use.

This theme of this years’ event is ‘Time to remember, time to act. This is more important than ever.

Speaking in advance of IOAD, Minister Frank Feighan said;

“The high number of deaths arising due to drug overdose every year, highlights clearly just how important a health-led approach to drug misuse is, that treats the use of substances as a public health issue, rather than solely as a criminal issue, so that we can better help individuals, families and communities.

I am deeply saddened that over 370 people are losing their lives every year in this country from drug overdose. This number is compounded when you think of the grief and devastation caused to families and communities and of the wider costs to society. These overdose deaths can be prevented through effective public health intervention and through harm reduction measures targeted at high risk groups. 

The Minister continued: I fully acknowledge the public health measures developed by the HSE to improve access to drug treatment services during Covid-19, which I am pleased to advise have protected people who use drugs and saved lives. I also applaud the concerted efforts of the HSE and civil society groups to increase awareness of the risk of drug overdose during the pandemic.”

HSE Clinical Lead for Addiction Services, Dr. Eamon Keenan says:

‘International Overdose Awareness Day provides us with an opportunity each year to remember, reflect and produce an action in relation to the issue of drug overdose. We remember those people who have tragically died, we reflect on our work to deal with the issue and we plan new actions to enhance responses. This year we particularly want to highlight the emergence of ‘new’ or ‘fake’ benzodiazepines both across Europe and here in Ireland. These emerging drugs carry significant risks in terms of contamination and overdose. We have developed new resources which we are launching here today to inform and advise people on the risks associated with these drugs. These resources are available on and I encourage people to share widely with services, family members and those at risk”

USI Vice President for Welfare, Clare Austick said:

“It is important for USI to partner with the HSE on the 'Knowing the Signs' drug harm reduction campaign. It is safer not to use drugs at all, but students might decide to use drugs when socialising and meeting friends within the Public Health guidelines. It’s important for them to be aware of the emergency supports, and how to use drugs more safely. It’s important to raise awareness of the risks of overdose due to a change in tolerance levels and for students to be mindful of the risks out there.
We want to send a message to students that if you notice a concerning change in your own, or someone else’s behaviour after drug use, there are lots of supports out there that you can avail of to keep safe.

To access the new HSE resources, please visit 





Posted by on 08/31 at 10:51 AM in
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The HSE and Union of Students in Ireland (USI) ask students to think about drug safety measures when using club drugs
Harm reduction messages from the #SaferStudentNights campaign.
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