Black Balloon Day - A Virtual Tribute to Lives Lost to Addiction
On Monday, March 6th, chances are that you will see virtual Black Balloons on social media, in the schools, and on the city’s web pages. Balloons are usually happy pastels or bright colors, so you might be wondering about the significance of black ones. In 2015, a young man from Massachusetts, Greg Tremblay, died of a drug overdose. The father of four was only 38 years old and his grieving family sought a way to memorialize him while trying to raise awareness of addiction and overdose. They wanted to share the message that addiction can happen to anyone regardless of age, income, social status, or a myriad of other factors. As the one-year anniversary of his passing approached, Greg Tremblay’s mother-in-law, Diane Hurley, and his sister-in-law Lauren thought of balloons. They mentioned it to other family and friends and posted on their Facebook pages. The initial post went viral and that first day there were more than 20,000 interested supporters throughout the USA, even extending to Europe and Australia. Lauren Hurley said, “I had this vision that you wouldn’t be able to escape the balloons, just like you can’t escape this epidemic,” explaining how addiction doesn’t discriminate and touches everyone.
Since then, the Black Balloon event has spread worldwide as rapidly as the frightening statistics about opiate overdoses. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic. Americans are more likely to die of an opioid overdose than they are from a car accident or a gun. Black Balloon Day helps create awareness around the important issue of providing support to those struggling with substance use disorder and their loved ones. Passaic County has seen an increase in overdose deaths from 64 in 2013 to 143 in 2022. Deaths have risen from one in 7,875 residents to 1 in 3,499. Although there are fewer prescriptions written for opioids for pain management now, heroin usage has increased sharply and is often laced with fentanyl. While there is a treatment – Narcan – that can rescue a user from an overdose, the root problem of addiction remains and is difficult to treat.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 92,000 Americans died from substance overdoses in 2020—a 26% increase from the year prior. A significant portion of these substance use deaths were attributed to synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl. Methamphetamine, cocaine, prescription opioids, heroin, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants also caused deaths, though to a much lesser degree.
As we all know, loved ones are real people who had dreams and plans that did not include addiction. Black Balloon Day serves as a legacy to those whose lives were cut short and raises awareness of the scourge of addiction that affects everyone in some fashion. On Monday, people are encouraged to release a virtual Black Balloon and share a loved one’s name and story. Virtual balloons are simple to add, don’t require a trip to the store, are not an environmental hazard, and are a permanent legacy viewable to everyone, rather than one person letting go of a physical balloon.
If you wish to participate this year on March 6, simply add your loved one’s name and story, or a message of support for others with the hashtag #BlackBalloonDay to your social media posts. CASA (Clifton Against Substance Abuse) will again be participating and we are here to answer any questions or concerns. Please reach out to CASA President Tom Whittles at firstname.lastname@example.org.