Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held every Aug. 31 to raise awareness about overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths.
The opioid and heroin epidemic has claimed thousands, with nearly 35,000 people across the country losing their battle with addiction to heroin, fentanyl, prescription medications and imported substances in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Record numbers of deaths have been recorded in many states, including New Jersey. Addiction took the lives of 1,587 state residents in 2015, and officials say those numbers are climbing higher every year.
Drug-related overdoses in South Jersey counties included 85 in Atlantic, 32 in Cape May, 38 in Cumberland and 157 in Ocean in 2015.
Statistics can help researchers and public health officials determine the scope of an epidemic, but they don’t show the depth of loss families and friends experience when they lose someone to an overdose.
The Press asked readers and communities to send us photographs and messages about loved ones lost to the heroin/opioid epidemic — and the response was overwhelming.
Click the icon above to read more about each victim
A 16-year-old daughter from Hammonton continues to grieve the loss of her best friend, her father. A Hammonton mother becomes the sole provider for her family after the loss of her fiance. Parents in Mays Landing started an organization in honor of the son they lost to addiction. An infant child in Egg Harbor Township will grow up without his mother. A man holds on to the memories of the brother from Atlantic City he lost.
They may be gone, but their family and friends continue to keep their memories alive and work toward eliminating the stigma that creates barriers to treatment and support.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015. Stigma is one of the largest barriers to people receiving treatment for addiction. Organizing as a community to remember those we have lost will help break down this barrier.
IF YOU GO:
MILLVILLE: Cumberland County is holding its first local International Overdose Awareness and Remembrance event from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds, 3001 Carmel Road, Millville. Families and friends are invited to remember their loved ones and raise awareness in the community.
VENTNOR: Two free Narcan training sessions will be held at 2 and 4 p.m. at the Ventnor Community Library, followed by a remembrance event on the beach from 6 to 8 p.m. behind the Ventnor Community Library on Newport Avenue. Pre-registration is not required for the Narcan trainings, however, there is a maximum of 25 people per session. Organizers ask that you wear white to the remembrance event on the beach to signify hope for others. Attendees should bring a beach chair or blanket. The event will be held in the community center or library if it rains. For more information, call Tracy Smith at 609-445-5121. If you would like to have your loved one commemorated at this event email information to email@example.com.