WE CAN FIGHT BACK!
Reversing The Opioid Overdose Epidemic
(A Project of Americans for Responsible Drug Policy)
The opioid crisis is destroying families and communities. It is deadly, it is growing, and it is time to fight back! In the midst of the opioid epidemic, Americans for Responsible Drug Policy is a national education campaign to educate the media, potential victims, and families—with a message of prevention.
It is our view that a comprehensive and clear education campaign is urgently needed to both stem and reverse the opioid crisis. The campaign will be aimed at both the public and the media.
- In the public arena, many terms are used interchangeably and inaccurately because too many in the media are not familiar with the science, statistics, or terminology in both the opioid crisis and in substance abuse work generally. It is our view that so long as the problem is misunderstood and reported incorrectly, it will never be solved, and could even be exacerbated.
- Many potential victims and their families simply do not understand the risks of opioid abuse. Too many conflate serious and seriously-needed prescription drugs with the opioid overdose crisis, some of which come from prescriptions, most of which do not. An education campaign aimed at the media is needed to get the information right, but a prevention campaign is even more critical. To date, most efforts have focused on treatment, both urgent and long-term. This is, of course, critical. Still, treatment of and recovery from any addiction or substance abuse disorder addresses the problem after the fact. While treatment and recovery programs are critically important in saving the lives of those falling victim to addiction, our aim is to assist the larger effort at the front-end, by educating about prevention, to stop the abuse before it starts.
- Thus, we promote an education campaign explaining how opioid addiction truly begins, how overdoses usually occur, and will promote messaging to the larger public with strategies to prevent use and abuse before it commences. This worked with direct media campaigns and embedded mass messaging in the recent past. Recall the powerful “this is your brain on drugs” ads, how Hollywood was engaged in the late 1980s to help embed anti-drug messaging in popular movies and television shows, and the use of spokesmen from professional athletics. In fact, in the 1990s, prevention education campaigns reduced drug abuse by more than 50%. Sadly, with the abandonment of prevention messaging, poor information about the issue, and even some reversal of the messaging of the 1980s and 1990s to the point where entertainment now glamorizes drug use, abuse rates have shot up.
- Our vision is a unified, easy-to-understand social and mass media campaign featuring 45-to-60 second ads, a series of message tested phraseology, and a website offering a one-stop-shop of information (including a differentiation between myths and facts and prevention strategies for families). We are also at work planning a coordinated effort by seeking partnerships with local and state-level advocates.
- We do not assume we have all the answers. There are innumerable people and organizations doing good work in prevention in their local areas. We aim to identify best practices, provide resources and expertise to enhance the reach of those working at the local level, and replicate successes in other communities. The expertise we provide includes messaging, greater reach in advertising, higher level of engagement in online and social media efforts, effective one-on-one canvassing, and overall strategic advice.
The tipping point is here. But we can fight back—just as we did in the recent past. There is great interest and the numbers are at crisis level—but still reversible. With the right spokespeople, messaging, advertising, and engagement with government leaders and other nonprofits, we believe the country is ready for this campaign and that we can replicate the success we saw in the early 1990s. Our aim with prevention messaging is nothing short of joining the cause of other substance abuse efforts in saving lives.
Seth Leibsohn is a Phoenix-based radio talk show host and a policy and communications expert. The former Vice President of Empower America, one of the nation’s premier think tanks, Mr. Leibsohn has also served as the Chief of Staff to both former Education Secretary and Drug Czar William J. Bennett and former Congressman and HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. A well-known prevention expert both nationally and in the state of Arizona, Mr. Leibsohn also serves as the Chairman of NotMYKid, one of Arizona’s most respected substance abuse prevention organizations. For his work in substance abuse prevention, he was awarded the “Leader of the Year” award from the Arizona Capital Times in 2016.
A founder and partner of DC London, an award winning consulting firm, Sean Noble has vast communications, public affairs, and policy experience in domestic issues ranging from health care to education to substance abuse prevention. He has provided public relations and other consulting services to a variety of high-profile clients and campaigns for more than two decades. The former Chief of Staff to Arizona Congressman John Shadegg and a regular commentator on domestic policy on radio, television, and in the nation’s op-ed pages, Mr. Noble has long been sought out for his innovative advice and messaging expertise in both traditional and social media campaigns.
William J. Bennett is one of America’s most important, influential, and respected voices on cultural, political, and education issues. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Bill Bennett studied philosophy at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Texas (Ph.D.) and earned a law degree (J.D.) from Harvard.
Dr. Bennett is the former Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the former US Secretary of Education, and the former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (where he served as the nation’s first “Drug Czar.”). He, along with former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, is also the former co-Chair of the Partnership for a Drug Free America.
Dr. Bennett has written or co-authored more than 25 books including two New York Times number one best-sellers, one of them being the Book of Virtues, one of the most successful books of the 1990s. His three-volume set of the history of the United States entitled America: The Last Best Hope, has been widely praised and adopted for use in schools around the country. Although he is a well-known Republican, Dr. Bennett often has crossed party lines in order to pursue important common purposes.
Thanks to his government positions, his writings and speeches, and thousands of media appearances, William Bennett has had an extraordinary influence on America’s political and social landscape. In many surveys and publications he has been named one of the most influential individuals in America. He is the recipient of more than 30 honorary degrees.
For more than 40 years, Robert L. DuPont, MD has been a leader in drug abuse prevention and treatment. Among his many contributions to the field is his leadership as the first Director of the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse (1973-1978) and as the second White House Drug Chief (1973-1977). From 1968 to 1970 he was Director of Community Services, for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, heading parole and halfway house services. From 1970 to 1973, he served as Administrator of the District of Columbia Narcotics Treatment Administration (NTA), the citywide drug abuse treatment program that was the model for the federal government’s massive commitment to drug abuse treatment in the early 1970s. Following this distinguished public career, in 1978 Dr. DuPont became the founding president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.
Dr. DuPont has written for publication more than 375 professional articles and 15 books and monographs on a variety of health-related subjects. His books include Getting Tough on Gateway Drugs: A Guide for the Family, A Bridge to Recovery: An Introduction to Twelve-Step Programs and The Selfish Brain: Learning from Addiction. In 2005, Hazelden, the nation’s leading publisher of books on addiction and recovery, published three books on drug testing by Dr. DuPont: Drug Testing in Drug Abuse Treatment, Drug Testing in Schools, and Drug Testing in the Criminal Justice System.
Throughout his decades of work in addiction prevention, Dr. DuPont has served in many capacities. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). His activities in ASAM include chairing the forensic science committee from 1995 to 2004. He served as Co-Chair of two writing committees that produced ASAM white papers on “medical” marijuana and marijuana legalization in 2010 and 2012, respectively, and served as Chair of the writing committee that produced an ASAM white paper on drug testing in 2013. He is a Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and was chairman of the Drug Dependence Section of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) from 1974 to 1979. In 1989 he became a founding member of the Medical Review Officer Committee of ASAM.
A graduate of Emory University, Dr. DuPont received an MD degree in 1963 from the Harvard Medical School. He completed his psychiatric training at Harvard and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. DuPont maintains an active practice of psychiatry specializing in addiction and the anxiety disorders and has been Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine since 1980. Dr. DuPont’s signature role throughout his career has been to focus on the public health goal of reducing the use of illegal drugs. Watch a 2016 interview with Dr. DuPont by C4 Recovery Solutions.
Tevi Troy is the President of the American Health Policy Institute. He is also the author of the recent book, Shall We Wake the President?: Two Centuries of Disaster Management from the Oval Office. He is a frequent television and radio analyst, and has appeared on Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, Fox Business, and The NewsHour, among other outlets.
On August 3, 2007, Dr. Troy was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As Deputy Secretary, Dr. Troy was the chief operating officer of the largest civilian department in the federal government, with a budget of $716 billion and over 67,000 employees. In that position, he oversaw all operations, including Medicare, Medicaid, public health, medical research, food and drug safety, welfare, child and family services, disease prevention, and mental health services. He served as the regulatory policy officer for HHS, overseeing the development and approval of all HHS regulations and significant guidance. In addition, he led a number of initiatives at HHS, including implementing the President’s Management Agenda, combating bio-terrorism, and public health emergency preparedness. He also sponsored a series of key conferences on improving HHS’ role with respect to innovation in the pharmaceutical, biomedical, and medical device industries. Dr. Troy has led U.S. government delegations to Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, and Africa.