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Statewide campaign supports worldwide movement to end overdose
For immediate release.

International Overdose Awareness Day is Aug. 31

OLYMPIA, Wash – Communities around the world will come together on August 31 for International Overdose Awareness Day to honor the thousands of lives lost to and affected by drug overdose. The day of observation is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose and reduce the stigma around drug-related overdose deaths.

Overdose deaths are skyrocketing around the world and nation. In 2021, provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. In Washington state, over 17,500 residents died from a drug overdose between 2007 and 2021, with 68 percent of those deaths involving an opioid such as fentanyl.

In response to the growing numbers of fentanyl and opioid overdose deaths, the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) launched the “Friends for Life” statewide fentanyl education campaign earlier this year. The campaign seeks to inform teens and young adults in Washington about the risks of fentanyl and the power of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses. The Washington State Department of Health launched a similar campaign for a broader adult audience, “Prevent Overdose WA.”

“In Washington state and across the U.S., illicit fentanyl and other powerful additives are making street drugs more unpredictable and harmful,” said Charissa Fotinos, M.D., State Medicaid Director at HCA. “Most overdose deaths in Washington involve fentanyl. Knowing the facts about fentanyl and how to use naloxone to prevent overdose deaths can help us keep one another safe.”

Communities can access free information and resources on the Friends for Life campaign website, including facts about fentanyl, how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose, and where to get naloxone. The campaign will expand in September to include additional tools and educational materials designed to help parents, caregivers, prevention professionals, and educators have important conversations with teens about the risks of fentanyl and how to stay safe and make informed decisions.

To learn more about the Friends for Life fentanyl awareness campaign and to download free educational materials, visit