Honoring Lives Lost: What is Black Balloon Day?

March 6 is Black Balloon Day, an annual event dedicated to recognizing and celebrating those who have lost their lives to substance overdoses. In doing so, we not only honor lives lost but also help raise awareness about the stark realities of substance misuse around the world, putting human names and faces behind the often impersonal statistics surrounding overdose deaths.

Here’s what to know about Black Balloon Day, as well as some things that you can do to help raise awareness.

Black Balloon Meaning: The Story Behind the Day

Every year on March 6, Black Balloon Day reminds us to set aside some time to remember those who we have lost to substance misuse. As a visual marker of support, many people also put out a black balloon to spark conversations and raise awareness about overdose deaths.

This national and international event honors all those who have passed from overdoses, though its origins stem from the opioid epidemic and a loss in one family. It was founded by Diane and Lauren Hurley in honor of their family member Greg Tremblay, a father of four who died of an overdose on March 6, 2015 at the age of 38.

Substance use disorder affects many millions of people, and sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason behind who survives and who doesn’t. In setting out a black balloon or finding another way to honor the day, all of us can do our part to share with others the true dangers of substance misuse—and potentially save a life in the process.

Overdose Statistics

Overdose death rates in the United States make it clear that we have a long way to go in recognizing, addressing, and treating substance use disorder.

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, and primarily fentanyl. Methamphetamine, cocaine, prescription opioids, heroin, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants also caused deaths, though to a much lesser degree.   

This number is alarming. It’s also representative of real people, each of whom had dreams, aspirations, and plans for the future, all of which were cut short as a result of substance misuse.

Showing Support and Raising Awareness

The more that we talk about substance use disorder, the more that we help remove the stigma around seeking out help. Whether or not you decide to display a black balloon on March 6, we encourage you to use the day to open up a conversation about substance use disorder. One way to do this is by posting on your social media pages about overdose rates and/or resources for those who are struggling. You can also visit OverdoseLifeline.org and release a virtual black balloon in honor of those who have passed.

Get Help for Substance Use Disorder

If you or a loved one are suffering with substance use disorder, know that help is available. At Retreat Behavioral Health, we offer professional inpatient, outpatient, and residential care to help prevent overdoses and put people on the path to sobriety. Please reach out to learn more.