ATLANTA: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling the personal stories of people who were addicted or knew someone who was addicted to prescription opioids in a new campaign called Rx Awareness.
The stories will be told through videos, radio spots, and social media, with the message that prescription opioids can be addictive and "it only takes a little to lose a lot."
The campaign began in hard-hit states including Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New Mexico, in September, and will run through the end of the year. There are plans already in place to expand the campaign to other areas of the country.
The four states the campaign started with have some of the highest opioid overdose rates in the country. In 2015, Ohio and Kentucky were among the top five states with the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths, with 29.9% per 100,000 each. West Virginia had the highest rate in the country at 41.5% per 100,000.
"[The campaign] is focused on increasing awareness among our target audience around the risk of prescription opioids," said LeShaundra Cordier, communications team lead for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control’s division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. "We’re trying to increase awareness and knowledge among people 25 to 54 years old who have taken opioids at least one time, for recreational purpose, or for the medical management of pain."
The videos tell heart wrenching stories. One woman who was prescribed opioids after a car accident asks tearfully, "How could I be addicted? I get these from my doctor." While another woman tells the story of picking out the suit and sneakers for her son’s funeral after he overdosed on prescription opioids.
The CDC worked with ICF on the campaign. The contract was awarded in January of this year and included nine contracts that were worth more than $34 million. This opioid campaign, which was awarded in July 2016, is worth $4.8 million.
The CDC has used similar tactics for other awareness campaigns, Cordier said, including for the CDC’s anti-smoking campaign.
Cordier said the campaign was tested in December 2016 in four states before launching the official campaign this year. She explained that the CDC plans to expand the campaign to other states that are funded through the Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States and Data-Driven Prevention Initiative programs.
There are currently 13 states and Washington, DC, awarded funding through this program, for which the CDC has begun investing more than $50 million.
"Through our testing and piloting we found there was a lack of awareness that prescription opioid was a problem," Cordier said. "The reality - and the message - is that prescription opioids can be addictive and dangerous that it can only take one to lose a lot. The call to action component is to make sure they have that awareness if they're not taking opioids; and if they are taking opioids, that they will talk to someone."
President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency last week, mentioning a "massive advertising campaign" to educate Americans about the dangers of opioid addiction as one of the steps to end the crisis.