International Overdose Awareness Day

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one million people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose1. Those who find themselves caught in a cycle of addiction often feel ashamed, scared, and alone. Despite public awareness of the opioid epidemic, many still believe that addiction is a kind of moral failing – that bad people use drugs and if they want to stop using substances, they can easily do so. This moral model of addiction continues to exist despite recognition from all major medical associations that addiction is a neurobiological disease, responding to treatment much like any other chronic disease.

All people respond differently to substance exposure. Genetically, some people are predisposed to substance use disorders (SUD). Add in certain environmental factors and you have all the ingredients necessary for the development of a substance use disorder. It is estimated that only one in 10 people with SUD receive access to treatment2, even though there are several medications available that can significantly reduce the likelihood of overdose and death.

At Cooper, our EMS team and Center for Healing have been instrumental in spearheading new services to address substance use disorders and the opioid crisis.

In 2019, Cooper EMS, in conjunction with Cooper’s Addiction Medicine program, developed a first-in-the-nation pilot program whereby paramedics are authorized to administer buprenorphine to treat acute withdrawal symptoms after patients have been revived from an opioid overdose with naloxone. Based on Cooper’s efforts, the program was approved by the New Jersey Commissioner of Health and has served as a model across the United States. Through the buprenorphine program and outreach efforts, Cooper EMS provides a frontline bridge to assist those suffering from opioid-use disorder to obtain effective treatment services. Cooper’s EMS, Emergency Medicine, and Addiction Medicine teams were recently featured on CBS Saturday Morning for their efforts to save lives through the incorporation of buprenorphine after the reversal of an opioid overdose. To watch the segment, click here.

Cooper’s Center for Healing provides compassionate, evidence-based care for those struggling with substance use, pain, mental health, and trauma.  Since opening in 2015, the center has used an integrated care model, staffed by an interdisciplinary team of physicians, advanced practice providers, therapists, nurses, and navigators. This comprehensive, evidence-based care is available to anyone struggling with addiction, even those who are uninsured. If you or your loved one is struggling with substance use, help is available. To make an appointment, call 856.342.3040. There are also immediate access walk-in appointments at Three Cooper Plaza, Suite 220, from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. To learn more about the Center for Healing, click here.


  1. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2022. Available at
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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