International Overdose Awareness Day[i] is held on 31 August each year. It is a global event.

The aim of the day is to raise awareness of overdose and help reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. The day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

IOAD-GraphicAccording to the most recent World Drug Report, an estimated 585,000 people died worldwide as a result of drug use in 2017.

In England and Wales there were 4,359 drug-related deaths registered in 2016 -18, the highest since comparable records began in 1993.[ii]

Deaths involving heroin and morphine doubled in the three years prior 2015, and are now the highest on record and deaths involving cocaine reached an all-time high in 2015 at 320 deaths – up from 247 in 2014.  It has been recently estimated that Scotland may have the highest rate of drug-related mortality in Europe.[iii]

People aged 30 to 39 have the highest mortality rate from drug misuse, followed by people aged 40 to 49. Those affected come from all walks of life and in most cases such deaths are avoidable.

Perhaps one of the worst aspects is the almost inevitable grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or have been left permanently damaged as a result of a drug overdose.

The repercussions of ‘legal highs’ and drugs like nicotine and alcohol should not be underestimated and deaths do occur as a consequence of these drugs.

The Institute of Actuaries published the results of a study it commissioned which showed that the mortality rate for smokers is twice as high as for non-smokers, and that, on average, a smoker dies 6 years earlier than a non-smoker.

Awareness and education is probably the most vital weapon, so days like Overdose Awareness Day raise awareness and destigmatise, the need for help is recognised and interventions become perhaps less about recrimination and punishment and more about prevention and saving lives.

How can hypnotherapy help?

Working with addiction needs to be undertaken only by those with the appropriate training and experience and only then with the complete co-operation of the clients medical team. This work should not be undertaken lightly, speaking to those who work in this area confirms it can be very hard work but also rewarding.

It is more common for hypnotherapists to find themselves working with those who have been close to the addict. People seldom present with Complicated Grief as their primary presenting problem, rather symptoms of depression, apathy, stress or even physical symptoms like pain  yet sometimes hypnotherapists recognise patterns of unresolved grief in those people left behind.  A thorough assessment of the nature of their grieving will help decide whether intervention is necessary and therapists may find themselves working with individuals toward the release of unresolved grief

Finding an acceptance of the reality of the loss could lead to an understanding that may be significant and very helpful. Working to help a client say goodbye can be enormously powerful, as can forward pacing into a future, when life has returned to some semblance of normality and there is hope.


[ii] Source: Office of National Statistics, ‘Deaths Related to Drug Poisoning in England and Wales: 2015 registrations’, United Kingdom Statistics Authority
[iii] Scotland, EMCDDA (2017) ‘United Kingdom: Country Drug Report 2017