I’ll never forget the day I received the call from my parents informing me that one of my sister’s friends passed away from an overdose. I was heartbroken; my sister was devastated. It was 2002, and the first time overdose touched my life personally.

What I didn’t know then was that I was going to continue to hear similar stories for the next 20 years, only more often and each one just as tragic.  Back then, everyone knew that heroin was “bad” but there was very little information about the danger of other opioids, like Percocet (perc’s) and Oxycontin (oxys). 

As the years have gone by, we have seen the drugs change. Most of what is found on the street contains fentanyl, a lethal drug that is found in 80 [percent of the overdose deaths in Philadelphia. Fentanyl is being mixed into heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly), and sometimes it’s being pressed into pills that look like Oxycontin and Percocet.

It’s impossible to tell which drugs contain fentanyl with the naked eye. There are test strips available to detect fentanyl and help prevent overdoses. We also know that overdoses can be reversed using a medication called naloxone (brand name Narcan).  

Raising Awareness

Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, a day when we pause to remember the lives of individuals who have died from overdose and take time to spread the message that overdose death is preventable. 

By taking these steps, you can help prevent deaths due to overdose:

If you know someone who uses drugs, recreationally or otherwise

DBHIDS is here to help. To learn more about services and supports offered through DBHIDS, please visit DBHIDS.org/BOOST or call 1-888-545-2600.

About the Author: Amanda N. David, MSW, LSW is the Single County Authority (SCA) Administrator for Philadelphia County under the Behavioral Health Division at the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disability Services. Amanda plans, coordinates, manages, and implements the delivery of drug and alcohol prevention, intervention, and treatment services in Philadelphia.