International Overdose Awareness Day was initiated in 2001 by Sally J Finn at the Salvation Army in St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia. Since then, many community members as well as government and non-government organizations around the world have held events to raise awareness and commemorate those who have been lost to drug overdose. Skagit County recognizes International Overdose Awareness Day as a time to:

  • Raise awareness of overdose – one of the worst public health crises and stimulate action and discussion around evidence-based overdose prevention.
  • Acknowledge the profound grief felt by families and friends whose loved ones have died or suffered permanent injury from a drug overdose.
  • Give community members information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdose and local support services.
  • Send a strong message to current and former people who use drugs that they are valued.

Temporary memorials were placed throughout various cities/towns in Skagit County and will remain visible until Friday, September 3rd, 2021. Visit or drive by these memorials (locations can be found here: International Overdose Day and learn more about how to prevent overdose at Skagit Rising.

What is an overdose?

An overdose occurs when an individual consumes more of a drug (or combination of drugs) than the body can cope with. There are several signs and symptoms that may indicate someone is overdosing or has overdosed, and these signs/symptoms differ with the type of drug used. Common signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose include the inability to wake up; slow or no breathing; pinpoint pupils; and blue, gray, or ashy skin, lips, or fingernails.

In 2020, Skagit County lost 45 individuals to drug overdose. This same year, 143 Skagitonians experienced a nonfatal opioid overdose. It is important to note that ALL drugs can cause an overdose, including prescription medications prescribed by a doctor. Check out the International Overdose Awareness Day Opioids Fact Sheets below, for overdose information by drug type:

Opioids Fact Sheet | Depressants Fact Sheet | Alcohol Fact Sheet | Stimulants Fact Sheet

Help prevent overdose

Overdose and overdose deaths are preventable with preparedness, education, and community care. International Overdose Awareness Day provides an opportunity for us to talk about and prevent overdose in our community. Knowing the real facts about drugs and what to do when you see someone experiencing an overdose saves lives. You can help prevent overdose in Skagit County by doing one or more of the following:

  1. Have tough conversations

*     Talk with your doctor about safe prescribing practices and alternative pain management options

*     Talk to youth about safe medication use and the risks of misusing drugs

*      Talk to seniors about the potential risks of opioid prescriptions and how to safely store medications (using a lockbox/bag) in their home

*        For talking points and more information on overdose prevention, visit www.skagitrising.org.

  1. Know the signs and symptoms of an overdose. If someone may be overdosing, call 9-1-1, give naloxone, and perform rescue breathing. The Good Samaritan law (RCW 69.50.315) states that neither the overdosing individual nor the people helping the overdosing individual will be prosecuted for drug consumption or possession.
  1. Carry Naloxone (also called Narcan®). Naloxone is a safe and simple medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdose.

*       Under the statewide standing order, anyone can get naloxone at a pharmacy without a prescription.

*       Pick up naloxone for free from Skagit County Public Health (700 S 2nd St. #301, Mount Vernon, WA 98273) or have it mailed to your home.

*      Skagit County encourages all willing individuals to carry at least two doses of naloxone due to the increase of fentanyl in street bought drugs.

  1. For individuals currently using substances, do your best not to use alone, test for fentanyl (fentanyl test strips are available at Public Health/Syringe Exchange), and start slow/use a small amount to determine strength. If you must use alone, call 800-484-3731 (Never Use Alone) to ensure someone can help in the event of an overdose.
  1. Help people struggling with substance use disorders find the right care and treatment. If you or a loved-one want(s) treatment or just want(s) to learn more, visit the Washington Recovery Helpline, or call 1-866-789-1511.

For more information about treatment options and a list of local resources/treatment providers, call (360) 416-1500.

Marcee Maylin has a degree in Editorial Journalism from the University of Washington and 30+ years media experience. She is currently the Editor of the Everett Post dedicated to providing current, relevant, and entertaining content for the local community.