Using art to prevent drug overdoses and tackle stigma

Released on 28th August 2023

Artwork created by people who have a lived experience of drug addiction will be featured in an exhibition open for one night only on Thursday 31 August to mark International Overdose Awareness Day. 

The exhibition is being coordinated by not-for-profit community health service, cohealth, and will feature a unique element – overdose-prevention training for attendees. CBD-based health and support agency The Living Room, will train exhibition attendees in the use of overdose-reversal drug, Naloxone. 

cohealth Chief Executive, Nicole Bartholomeusz says the exhibition breaks down the stereotypes around people who use drugs, and aligns with the 2023 IOAD theme, “Recognizing those people who go unseen”. 

“This exhibition aims to humanise people who are experiencing one of the most highly stigmatised health conditions globally – illicit drug dependence.” Said Ms Bartholomeusz. 

“Judgement and stigma pushes people further away from the support and health services they need and leaves them at greater risk of overdose.” 

“Part of cohealth’s mission is to tackle health and social inequality, and that involves changing social attitudes towards people who are experiencing complex health problems, such as drug dependence,” said Ms Bartholomeusz. 

Artist, Zahra, will have several pieces featured in the exhibition.  

After leaving her family at the age of 16, Zahra fell into a cycle of homelessness and drug use, exacerbated by complex mental health issues stemming from childhood trauma. 

Zahra says that art has been a valuable therapy tool to help manage her challenges in her life and is now working at cohealth as a peer worker, a job which sees her using her own experiences to help others. 

She is also studying a certificate in Mental Health at Swinburne University. 

“I hadn’t picked up a paint brush for a long time, but this art exhibition gave me a reason to get painting again, and also to support others to use art as therapy,” said Zahra, who helps coordinate free weekly art workshops for people who are living on the street or facing other disadvantage.  

“Through my artworks I explore the connection between trauma and drugs. In the past I used drugs to numb some of the pain and grief I’ve experienced.  

“With the right support I’ve seen that there are other ways I can overcome negative things in life, and now I have a job where I help others improve their lives too,” she said. 

Event details 

Title: cohealth art exhibition to mark International Overdose Awareness Day 

Date: 31 August 

Time: 6-8pm 

Venue: Drill Hall, 26 Therry St Melbourne 

The exhibition will be open from 6-8pm at Drill Hall and all artworks will be for sale. 


Select a location and book online

Book Online Book Online Book Online Book Online Book Online Book Online Book Online