Residents of the New River Valley will join others around the world on Saturday, August 31 to remember those who have died or suffered permanent injury due to drug overdose.

Observed 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 marks the third year that New River Valley Community Services (NRVCS) and The Face of Addiction Is Mine campaign have sponsored a candlelight vigil for International Overdose Awareness Day. The event, which is free and open to the entire community, will be held at the Bisset Park gazebo in Radford. The program begins at 7:00 p.m., followed by the lighting of candles at dusk.

Officials with NRVCS say this event allows the people of our area the opportunity to be part of a global movement for understanding, compassion, and change. In 2018, there were 747 IOAD events of all kinds, held in 38 countries.

People and communities came together to raise awareness of one of the world’s most urgent public health crises – one that, unfortunately, is only getting worse.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s most recent World Annual Drug Report, 585,000 people around the world died as a result of drug use in 2017.

A participant in the 2018 candlelight vigil lights a candle to remember their loved one. (File photo)

A full list of the IOAD 2019 events currently planned around the world can be found at: https://www.overdoseday.com/activities-2019/

International Overdose Awareness Day is convened by Penington Institute, an Australian not-for-profit.

“We are putting on this event to honor our loved ones who have died or been injured because of an overdose,” notes Mike Wade with NRVCS. “By coming together to remember them, we stand together to say that more needs to be done to end overdose in our community.”

“Overdose can affect anybody and one of the messages of this day is that the people who overdose are our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters – they are loved and they are missed,” adds Wade. “No family should ever have to go through the pain of losing a loved one because of overdose.”

He continues, “We encourage members of the community with lived experience to come to our event and to stand in solidarity with the men and women who have been personally affected by overdose.”

“While our candlelight vigil is focused on remembering those who have been lost or hurt by drug use, we believe it’s also important to share a message of hope for those who are struggling with addiction,” concludes Wade.