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.