Overdose Awareness Day

August 28, 2017

Josh Graves (pictured holding his niece) died at age 21 after experimenting with the prescription opioid hydromorphone.

No one is immune to overdose

Story by: Shelley Rattray

Amy Graves divides everything into “life before Josh died and life after Josh died.”

Seven years ago, Graves lost her brother Josh, a skilled arbourist and talented athlete, to an opioid overdose.

All it took was one prescription pill on a night out with friends.

“My family was absolutely blindsided by this news,” Graves says. “We never expected something like this could happen to us.

“I always knew drug use carried risk, but I did not realize recreational or occasional use could kill. I had no idea a legal, regulated drug could kill someone so easily.”

Every year, August 31 is a day the world remembers those who lost their lives to overdose and honours those left behind to mourn.

“Overdose awareness day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that addiction is not a choice – it can happen to anyone,” says Dr. Nicholas Etches, Medical Officer of Health, Calgary Zone. “No one is immune."

“It is also a time to share with Albertans what they can do to look out for one another. We need to make sure people who use drugs feel part of a community and supported. This way they are more likely to ask for help when they need it. It is also important for users, friends and families to help prevent overdoses from happening and to learn how to respond.”

Now, Graves is making it part of her life’s mission to do whatever possible through advocacy to protect other families from the pain of losing a loved one.

“Josh was a beautiful human being with a contagious smile, incredible sense of humor, and a kind heart,” she says. “His death does not define him, his life does.

“I wish addiction and substance use wasn’t so stigmatized which causes people to suffer in silence. We must save the lives of those using now with accessible mental health and addictions treatment, harm reduction, and treating substance use as health issue not a moral failing.”

For more information about addiction and mental health care, visit or to learn more about how to respond to overdose visit,

To read more about Amy’s story, visit: Passion for Health