Removing the stigma: International Overdose Awareness Day

Aug 31, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: 2:53 pm

Image of a previous "A Light to Remember" event in Tooele, Utah. Today is International Overdose Aw...

FILE: A previous "Light to Remember" event in Tooele, Utah. (USU)


SALT LAKE CITY — Today is International Overdose Awareness Day, and advocates in Utah say the negative stigma around recovery is changing.

Patrick Cox with the Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness program said the shifting view means more people are able to ask for help.

“If people can be viewed as someone who has a substance use problem as opposed to a substance abuse problem, there’s a lot more potential hope,” Cox said.

“People are more understanding, less scared, less unaware of both mental health and substance use issues which oftentimes coincide.”

Additionally, Cox said it’s important to continue to talk about these issues so more people can get the help they need. This is an issue that impacts families year-round.

As stigma gives way to understanding, Cox said, “More people are willing to stand up and say I have a problem.”

Cox added, “Addiction isn’t a choice. It’s an evolving process within the brain from the first chemical introduction. This can impact anybody.”

Raising awareness

In recognition of the day, Gov. Spencer Cox requested flags to be flown at half-staff on Aug. 31. 

Additionally, the Weber-Morgan Health Department is hosting an event Thursday at 7 p.m. to increase awareness called “A Light to Remember” at the USU Botanical Garden.  The event also honors those lost to addiction and recognizes the grief experienced by family and friends. 

In a press release, Maren Wright Voss, USU Extension health and wellness professor said just like a cancer walk, “A Light to Remember” allows communities to unite, show support, and receive education.

“In remembering those we have lost, we remember why we need to make things different for our future mothers, fathers, children, and friends,” she said. 

Other communities hosting luminary celebrations on Aug. 31 include:

  • Cache/Box Elder counties – Cache County Fairgrounds, Logan, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Carbon/Emery counties – Huntington State Park, Huntington, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Salt Lake County – Utah State Capitol south steps, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Duchesne County – Central Park Pavilion, Roosevelt, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Grand County – Rotary Park, Moab, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Weber County – Ogden Botanical Gardens, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Sevier County – Richfield City Park, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • South Salt Lake County – Wheeler Historic Farm, Murray, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Washington County – Utah Tech University, St. George, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Tooele County – Stansbury Park Clubhouse, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Editors note: This article has been changed to reflect that the Weber-Morgan Health Department is hosting the “A Light to Remember” event.

Contributing: Amie Schaeffer





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Removing the stigma: International Overdose Awareness Day