Overdose Awareness Day Helps Remove Addiction Stigma

Rachel Pierson
August 31, 2019 - 2:28 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Today marks International Overdose Awareness Day and one former Naperville resident said it's a day that's helped give her closure regarding her son's death. 

"He was a good kid and he always seemed okay when he walked in the door," said Caroline Kacena, whose son John overdosed on heroin in 2012."I was devastated when John died and I felt very alone and there wasn't the support systems that there are out there now."

That year, she attended her first Overdose Awareness Day event.

"I remember going to that event at Roosevelt University up in Schaumburg and I met a whole bevy of people who have since become my good friends. These are women who I can go to, I can hug them, and I can cry and I know they get it," she said. 

The National Safety Council reports opioid overdose deaths are up more than 600 percent in the last 20 years.

"For the first time in United States history, you are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than a motor vehicle crash," explained Maureen Vogel, National Safety Council spokeswoman.

These alarming numbers have led the National Safety Council and people like Kacena to participate in Overdose Awareness Day every year.

"We need to first and foremost end the stigma. When you end the stigma and talk about it, only then can you start helping," Kacena said. 

Vogel concurred, adding, "It is a crisis that is impacting everyone, and Overdose Awareness Day gives us that moment to stop, reflect on the people we've lost, and ask ourselves what more we can do to make sure that these deaths are a thing of the past."

The National Safety Council recently developed a memorial site, "Celebrating Lost Loved Ones," where friends and families can share photos and stories of those who lost their life to overdose.  

The Cook County Department of Public Health has also developed an interactive Opioid Story Map in partnership with the Cook County Bureau of Technology.