A commemoration for International Overdose Awareness Day

25 August 2019 – 24 Av 5779

Peter Phillips
25 August 2019

Saturday 30 August is commemorated as International Overdose Awareness Day – a time when those of us who have lost family and friends to drug overdoses remember our loved ones and seek positive change in the way that the larger society responds to them.

For me this is personal, having lost my father to a heroin overdose when I was 17. Although that was more than 30 years ago, I often think about my father again these days, in the year that he would have been 70. He died when he was 35, more than half a life ago, and it’s somewhat odd to realise that I’ve already had 16 years more life than he did. I wonder how things might have been, how we would or wouldn’t have got on, how both our lives would have been the same or different.

Sadly, today, opiate overdoses are still increasing, with some variability over the last decade. And the ‘war on drugs’ (in fact a war on drug users) has left hundreds of thousands of other children without a parent and vice versa.

The UK has the highest rate of drug use, and drug deaths, and also the most repressive policies concerning drug use in Europe. Despite the Government’s own expert committee pressing for change there is still inaction.

This has always been a matter of injustice to me and my Judaism reinforces a desire to try to change that. The way that people who use drugs in the UK are treated is not based in healing but rather in punishment and prejudice.

Along with Rabbi Janet Burden, I will be leading a commemoration for International Overdose Awareness Day at the Montagu Centre on the evening of Friday 30 August.

All are welcome to join us to remember friends and family who have died through drug use and to recommit ourselves to campaigning for a thorough revision of our drug laws and an information based approach to this growing problem. For details please email me.

[Peter Phillips is a member of WCLS and a graduate of the Ba’alei Tefillah programme]  

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