Local group commemorates International Overdose Awareness Day

Local residents gathered around a mandala in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day.
(Luke Harold)

Local advocacy group North County Justice Allies hosted a commemoration of International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 30.

A little more than 60 attendees from North County and Orange County, wearing masks and practicing social distancing, created a mandala, which is a circle that contains designs and symbols.

“It’s very important to end the stigma around addiction so we can start talking honestly about what happens to these kids when they make a casual mistake by taking a Xanax that’s laced with fentanyl,” Encinitas resident Lisa Nava said.

Many overdose cases involve drugs such as Xanax, cocaine and oxycodone laced with fentanyl, unbeknownst to the user.

Nava added that “our perception of addiction is very rooted in old perception.” The types of people across the country who struggle with substance abuse and addiction are more than the outdated archetype of a typical junkie.

“These are young kids who are dying right now,” Nava said.

Her son Alex, who was 23 when he died last year by overdosing, was among them.

“Because I’m an activist, part of the way I process my healing is by stirring up some good trouble and trying to reach out to people who need help,” Nava said. “And that’s what this initiative is about.”

Some of the other people who participated in the event Aug. 30 lost loved ones to overdoses as well.

There were 152 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in San Diego County throughout 2019, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. As of Aug. 6 in the county, there have been 119 deaths in which fentanyl has been confirmed as the cause; in another 84, authorities are awaiting confirmation as to whether it was the cause.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid up to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the DEA. For most people, a dose the size of two grains of salt is lethal. San Diego County officials have also warned that the number of overdose deaths from fentanyl and fentanyl-laced drugs has been increasing exponentially. Counterfeit pills have caused many of those deaths.

“These are members that we’re losing out of our community, which means that our productivity and our investment into our community is being devastated, which will have future outcomes that we can’t even predict,” Nava said.

North County Justice Allies hosted the event with LoveSoulShine, a company that teaches about the mind-body connection.

For more information about North County Justice Allies, visit