As many of you know, August 31st was International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD). It is recognized as a day to remember loved ones who struggle or have struggled with substance abuse, particularly those who suffered an overdose. It is also a time to rally victim’s families to show support and to take action in preventing future overdoses.

With 340 events held in 16 different countries, this year’s IOAD saw people reaching out and sharing their stories around the world. From charity concerts to moments of silence, the events featured a wide range of activities and memorials. We want to recognize a few of those events that impressed us with their unique ideas. Remember these are being recognized for being unique. They may not have been the biggest or the flashiest, but they all contained at least one element that set them apart from the other events.

Collaborative Activities


A hug can go a long way to comforting someone in pain. While hugs were likely a common sight at all IOAD events, we want to recognize “Hugs from Hunter,” in Arizona for making it a focus. Planning a big event can sometime take the focus off of the little things. This centerless event was entirely about giving a little hug. It was a simple reminder to, as they put it, “Hate the drug – love the addict.”

Drum Circle

Most people have felt the power music has for soothing the soul. Many events on IOAD had some form of live music. Some had full on concerts, while others had local youth musicians. However, we chose to spotlight Operation Safe Families of Broome County and Truth Pharm for their “Trail of Truth” event in Binghamton, NY, for its inclusion of a drum circle. The drum circle allowed for many people to participate in making the music and accompanied a walk—keeping everyone in step.


Performance Art

Song Written While in Rehab

Sticking with the music theme, the next event we want to highlight is the one hosted by the Herefordshire Service User Group (HSUG) in Heresford, England. Like many of the other IOAD events, this one featured live music. The music at this event was just a little more personal because it was written by someone while they were going through rehab. We found this detail quite apropos.

Flash Mob Performance

The sheer boldness of having a flash mob style performance at an IOAD event is worthy of recognition. Part of the rally hosted in West Palm Beach, FL, by the Fed Up movement, the Demetrius Klein Dance Company performed a dance entitled “129,” in honor of the approximate number of people who die of an overdose each day. The dance was choreographed by Gaynelle Gosselin, whose son successfully stopped using drugs.

Competitive Activities

Kickball Tournament

While substance abuse and overdose are a serious topic, remembering a loved one can sometimes include a little fun and games to celebrate life. In that spirit of celebration, Valley ADE, in Waverly, NY, held their 3rd Annual Kickball Tournament in honor of IOAD. Although the event occurred prior to the actual IOAD, it still helped raise awareness and brought people together for a great cause.

Cycling Race

One of the most physically demanding IOAD events, the Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation and Serena Hotels organized cycling race in Islamabad, Pakistan. This marked the first time IOAD was observed in Pakistan. The cycling was chosen not just as a way to raise awareness, but also to encourage young people to get involved in physical activities which will lessen the likelihood of them turning to drugs.



Many IOAD events featured memorials in which physical object were used to represent the memories of lost loved ones. Among the most common were candles, ribbons, shoes, and balloons. One event in Michigan handed out 129 necklaces to represent the 129 people who die from drug overdoses each day. The event, “Overdose Awareness Mission in Memory of Shelby Barror,” and was hosted by Wings for My Sister.

Purple Chalk Silhouettes

Another powerful and unique tribute to friends and family who have been lost to overdose came in the form of purple chalk silhouettes. The silhouettes were part of the Cardboard Testimonies event hosted by the Wagoner County Family Service Council RX Abuse Committee in Wagoner, OK. They also filled the silhouettes with facts illustrating the dangers associated with drug abuse.

Graffiti Wall

Perhaps the most striking memorial, the IOAD Graffiti Mural in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, is beautiful. Harm Reduction Victoria organized the painting of the mural and artists DUKE, NACK, POISE, and SEAR all contributed their remarkable talents to creating an amazing finished product. Bravo.

Thank you all for your creativity, imagination, and hard work. We look forward to seeing your work on next year’s IOAD.

If you or a loved one have an addiction to alcohol, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery within 30 days. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.

Unique Events Held in Honor of International Overdose Awareness Day