International Overdose Awareness Day 2021

31 August 2021

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is a global campaign that aims to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind. It is an opportunity to stimulate discussion and action about evidence-based drug policies and decriminalisation. Initiated in 2001 in Melbourne, Australia, IOAD has since grown into a worldwide event occurring every year on August 31, where people and communities can come together to commemorate our loved ones and demand action to address the overdose crisis. 

There are several ways to participate in IOAD:

  • Hold an Event by bringing people together, even if it's just a few friends. There is an Event Support Kit and resources on the IOAD website to help you out. 
  • Post a Tribute by either adding someone to remember to the official IOAD tribute page, or create your own using the materials from INPUD's #MoreThan campaign
  • Show your Support by wearing purple, the official campaign color of IOAD. 
  • Get Social and follow along on the IOAD twitter, facebook and instagram pages throughout the day. Use the hashtag #OverdoseAware, #EndOverdose and #MoreThan on your photos and posts to help build momentum for the day and spread awareness.

This year, there are several IOAD events being organised by drug user led groups both online and in person. If you are hosting an event and would like it listed here, please e-mail details to

Women and Harm Reduction International Network (WHRIN) launched a statement for IOAD 2021 which you can read here.

The Association Québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de drogues (AQPSUD) will be hosting an action with speeches at Emilie Gamelin Parc in Montreal. Several places and buildings in Montreal will be illuminated purple. 

The Drug User Liberation Front and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (Canada) will once again hand out tested, unadulterated heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine to emphasise the call for safe supply. The drug packaging will be clearly labeled to state what is in each substance in an action to demonstrate how providing a safe supply of drugs can work. The groups have previously handed out tested drugs in previous actions over the last year, and were even joined in July by a Vancouver City Council member. 

Le Dispensaire (Canada) will be illuminating their building in St-Jérôme purple and are awaiting an answer from the city to know if they will also be illuminating anything. They will also be hosting an event on Friday, August 27 where they will host a press conference and a day of activities, including speeches, a circus, live music, karaoke, live painting, and more. 

Lambeth Service User Council (UK) will be posting pictures from their condolence book over social media. Be sure to check their Facebook page and follow along on August 31. Additionally the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Trust and Kings College London (KCL) will be lit up purple for IOAD. 

Urban Survivors Union (US) will be hosting a two-day event from August 30-31 in Greensboro, North Carolina. The first evening will be a night of remembrance and celebration honoring lives lost to overdose, including a calling of names and release of paper lanterns. The second evening will consist of speakers discussing what must be done to mobilise to end overdose. There will also be a drug checking demonstration and live music. Check out the full flyer here.

VOCAL-NY Users Union (US) is inviting the New York City harm reduction community to the Bronx Medical Examiners office for a press conference calling on soon-to-be Governor Hochul to pass the Overdose Prevention Package and approve the Overdose Prevention Center pilots. Following the press conference, there will be a rally for communty members to commemorate loved ones that have died from preventable overdose and speak out against the harms perptuated by the racist and classist War on Drugs. Check out this link for more info and to RSVP. 


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