Drug overdoses in Europe

Drug overdose deaths in Europe have risen for the fifth consecutive year, with a record 9 461 lives lost in 2017 (EU 28, Turkey and Norway). Reducing drug-related deaths is therefore a major public health challenge. Fighting this problem, the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) launches today three new resources looking at drug overdoses in Europe and the interventions in place to prevent them.

Most overdose deaths in Europe are linked to the use of opioids (heroin or synthetic opioids), although cocaine, other stimulant drugs and medicines also play a role. In a new online resource, Prevention of drug-related deaths in Europe, the agency provides an overview on the issue and the risk factors involved.

Drug-induced deaths in the European Union, Norway and Turkey, 2017

The EMCDDA illustrates how overdose prevention can be addressed on three levels: reducing vulnerability to overdose (e.g. accessible treatment and services); reducing the risk of overdose (e.g. retention in opioid substitution treatment, prison aftercare and overdose risk assessments); and reducing the likelihood of fatal outcomes (e.g. take-home naloxone policies and supervision of drug consumption). Currently, 87 supervised drug consumption facilities exist in 8 EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland providing a safer drug-using environment.

While naloxone – a medicine used to reverse opioid toxicity – has been used in hospitals for over 40 years, it is also now available in the community in many countries. The EMCDDA launched its first overview of Take-home naloxone (THN) programmes in Europe.

Practical solutions have been found to allow non-medical personnel to receive and administer injectable naloxone and enable the distribution of the medication to the homes of potential bystanders. Some countries now make the emergency medication available without a prescription to, or have lifted prescription regulations for, specific establishments or those registered as formally trained. The resource summarises the different products used in THN programmes, including naloxone nasal spray, authorised in 2017 by the European Commission for marketing in all EU countries.

Where have drug-related deaths increased most over the last 10 years? Are women and men affected equally? What are the current concerns in Europe? These are some of the questions answered in new Frequently asked questions (FAQs): drug overdose deaths in Europe published on the EMCDDA website. These present the overdose situation and trends as well as a range of maps and graphics. The EMCDDA monitors closely alerts on harms related to fentanyl and its derivatives due to the very high toxicity of these substances and their potential to result in large clusters of incidents and deaths.

Through its Strategy 2025, the EMCDDA is committed to contributing to a healthier Europe. While opioids are involved in the vast majority of overdose fatalities, other substances (e.g. cocaine, benzodiazepines, synthetic cannabinoids) also contribute to the overdose burden and should not be neglected. The resources contribute to a better understanding of drug overdoses and responses to them in Europe to support sound policymaking in this area.

The International Overdose Day marked around SEE

On the occasion of the International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), DPNSEE issued a press release underlining the importance of awareness and fighting stigma on overdose and presenting data about the issue worldwide and especially in Serbia. The release was published by the national Press agency Tanjug and several other media and portals.

The press release is downloadable following this link>>>

In Montenegro, NGO Juventas also issued a press release (supported by the NGO 4 Life) and held a press conference where Marija Mijović, coordinator of Programme of direct assistance to the people in risk of social exclusion presented situation in the country. A movie “Overdose”, directed by Mladen Vujović, outreach worker at the Drop-in Centre of NGO Juventas, Montenegro in cooperation with the Hungarian Drug reporters, was screened at the Green Montenegro International Film Festval.

Our colleagues from the Romanian Harm Reduction Network created a special video for this year’s IOAD campaign. Have a look at “Voices of the drug users. Episode 1”

Association AREAL and AREALTRIBE group from Slovenia organized a workshop dedicated to the International overdose awareness day on 1 September 2019 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Participants were educated how to respond if an individual finds himself or herself in that position.

Our colleagues from the Healthy Options Skopje (HOPS) promoted widely their webpages related to overdose and drugs

Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose and the fact is, overdose is an increasing global problem. Spreading the message that the tragedy of overdose and injury is preventable, International Overdose Awareness Day raise awareness of overdose and reduces the stigma associated with the drug-related death. Also, the day of awareness is providing support to families and loved ones of overdose victims, so that no one is forgotten.

Time to remember – time to act.

Time to remember loved ones and end overdose

Globally, there is an estimated minimum of 190,900 premature deaths caused by drugs (range: 115,900 to 230,100). It is estimated that there were more than 70,000 deaths caused by to drug overdose in European Union countries in the first decade of the 21st Century. Opioids account for the majority of drug-related deaths and in most cases such deaths are avoidable.

Local communities around the world are coming together every year at the end of August to remember those who have died or suffered permanent injury due to drug overdose.

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.

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.

In 2018, there were 747 IOAD events of all kinds, held in 38 countries.

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.

Memory Recollection, Time for Action

Since 2001 31st September has been marked around the World as the International Overdose Awareness Day in order to raise public awareness of the most risky outcome of the use of psychoactive substances and gave the meaning to deceased overdoses. Serbia was on the world map of countries that marked this day in 2017 under the slogan “Memory Recollection, Time for Action”.

Overdoses with the deadly outcome due to the use of drugs, alcohol and uncontrolled use of medicines are on the rise, especially among young people. Drug users, one of the most marginalized groups in our society, do not have to be condemned to death by overdosing.

In the city of Pančevo, organisation Nova+ organised street action, to join the world network of cities where this day is marked by burning candles for the deceased and sharing information and educational materials regarding prevention of overdose and also to raise awareness of this problem in the society.

Street action in Pančevo

The marking of the day continued in with the open talk in the Apollo Hall, where professionals were discussing the problematizing this this issue in relation to Serbia through an open talk. Invited speakers were Nenad Živković writer and journalist, moderator, Osmah Hamzagić representing the Public Health Institute Pančevo, Aleksandar Žugić from NGO Izlazak, Irena Molnar in the name of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe and host Branislav Princip from Nova+ organisation.

Conclusion of almost two hours of talk was as expected: society has a problem with overdoses – Serbia is not excluded. The first step in preventing overdose has to be raising awareness of the issue and recognising it as a public health problem that has social consequences. Recognition of symptoms, proper treatment in this case and the latest pharmacological preparations for the prevention of fatal outcome, which are recommended around the world, should become common practice in Serbia too.

Open talk in the Apollo Hall