Overdose Awareness Day: A Thank You to the Fighters

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Today started out as most Wednesday’s usually do for me.

Though my way to work typically consists of crawling through the parking lot of Interstate-5, putting myself in a bit of a time-crunch, I manage to make a few minutes to satisfy my vice with a stop for a cold brew. You know, the kick-start to each day. And this day was no different.

I pull into my secured parking garage, arrive at the top floor of the beautiful building located on Portland’s thriving South Waterfront neighborhood and walk into my office taking notice of the unbelievable view of a calm Willamette River at dawn. After days of what Oregonian’s consider “intense heat”, I silently thank Mother Nature for a cool break as I catch a glimpse of fall. I sit down at my desk, chuckle at a “Happy Hump Day” greeting from my co-worker and get started on what seems like a zillion emails that flood my inbox.

This is the routine I have followed five days a week for the last four years and I look forward to it tomorrow.

With a commitment to social media and a Public Health major, I keep a calendar of international and national health observances and try to make time to acknowledge each day. Today’s observance, however, seems to linger a little longer with me. Maybe it’s because I know that the amazing country where I was born and raised, the land of opportunity, a place with exceptional healthcare and home to the best resources is somehow in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic.

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day and sadly I know that awareness is not enough. Overdose has topped the charts as the #1 leading cause of accidental death in the United States. I’m bothered by the fact that I can go about my day as usual, find simple joys in so many little things before the sun has even reached high-noon, be fully aware of the significance of this day for our country, yet I can come to the conclusion that I will probably have no impact at all on the crisis surrounding me.  A problem so large and substantial that it has its own day reserved for mourning and activism every year. It’s a problem that has destroyed families and loved ones of the nearly 48,000 people who died from an overdose last year, alone.

While I rack my brain, do my research, scrub the internet to see what IOAD events are happening in my community, I struggle to figure out what I personally can do to join this fight against pain, hurt, anguish, emptiness, remorse, hopelessness and heartache. Feelings I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Instead, I find myself feeling thankful for those not like me. Those that refuse to sit back and succumb to the confusion of where to begin.

Fortunately, these fighters are not limited to a single group. These fighters come from all different walks of life. The company I work for places healthcare professionals in hospitals all over the country, the majority being nurses. And as I sit here in thought trying to articulate my appreciation to all, I am naturally inclined to notice firsthand the efforts of nursing personnel.

I find comfort in knowing that action has been demanded and action is what we’ve received. Hospitals and facilities all over are using harm reduction approaches to reduce the negative consequences of drug use while maintaining a realistic perspective and respect for the rights of those who use drugs. We don’t live in a world where we can expect abstinence. Instead, Harm Reduction uses factual drug education, illness and injury prevention along with effective drug treatment for problematic use.

To the healthcare providers, first responders and nurses who choose to take action and to those committed to education, training and advocacy for resolution of this battle, I am grateful for you!

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