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Why Purple Lights at Alexandria City Hall?

Purple lights illuminate City Hall through September 1 to shine attention on opioid misuse, and ways to help. (Photos: John David Coppola/The Zebra Press)

Story and photos by John David Coppola

“We are really excited about the event,” Alexandria’s Public Information Specialist Carmen Andres told The Zebra. “I just heard that this may be the first time City Hall has ever been lit in color!”

The façade and fountain at City Hall is bathed in purple light for 24 hours from August 31 through September 1 to launch National Recovery Month in Alexandria.  “We hope it offers another way for people to understand better and learn more about substance misuse and treatment,” said Andes.

The City is also launching a social media campaign this month to shine a spotlight on opioid misuse and treatment and invites social media users to share four short videos and tag three others to do the same.

How Opioids are Affecting Alexandria 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 67,000 died of drug overdoses in 2018, making it the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. On August 12, the City reported that there had been nine non-fatal overdoses in Alexandria since July 24, seven of which were related to opioids.

Opioids are a class of highly addictive drugs that includes prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, and illegal drugs like heroin. However, addiction is not always the cause of an overdose. Overdoses can happen to a patient recovering from surgery or injury; a teenager experimenting with illegal drugs for the first time; or a child who ingests leftover medication from a home medicine cabinet. Learn more at

Residents can help prevent overdose deaths by being aware of the signs and knowing how to respond to an overdose. Symptoms of an opioid overdose may include a pale face, limp body, bluish lips or nails; vomiting or gurgling; drowsiness or unconsciousness; slow breathing or heartbeat; or muscle spasms. If an overdose is suspected, call 911 immediately.

Naloxone (Narcan) is a medicine that, if given in time, can save the life of someone overdosing on opioids. It is available for free from the Alexandria Health Department by calling 703.746.4888 or from the City’s Opioid Response Coordinator by calling 703.746.3326.

How You Can Help

Residents can also dispose of unwanted medicines at permanent drug drop boxes during business hours at The Neighborhood Pharmacy (2204 Mt. Vernon Ave.),  24/7 inside the front entrance of the Alexandria Police Department Headquarters (3600 Wheeler Ave.) and 1-5 p.m. daily in the Visitor’s Center Lobby of Inova Alexandria Hospital (4320 Seminary Road).

The City’s Department of Community and Human Services can help locate treatment options in Alexandria for anyone dealing with addiction and is available 24 hours a day at 703.746.3636 (Virginia Relay 711). To get help stopping the use of heroin or other opioids, call the Opioid Treatment Program intake line at 703.746.3610.

To provide information regarding overdoses or any illegal drug activity, please call the Alexandria Police Department at 703.746.6277.

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