WPP, iHeartMedia, Fors Marsh unite to fight opioid epidemic

'#TalkToMe' is a drive to destroy the stigma of addiction.

About 130 people die from opioid overdoses every day in the U.S.

As the epidemic shows no sign of abating, Fors Marsh Group, iHeartMedia and WPP have formed the National Opioid Action Coalition.

The groups launched on Tuesday #TalkToMe, a science-based public awareness initiative that unites sectors with influencers to reduce stigma as a barrier to opioid-use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery.

"The scale of the opioid epidemic is alarming, with 130 people dying from opioid overdose every day in the U.S. Every company is connected to this crisis through their customers, employees and communities they serve," said Sean Howard, global managing director of WPP Government and Public Sector Practice. "We have the opportunity to make a difference in this fight, and every brand has a role to play. #TalkToMe is an invitation for companies to step up and join the fight."

While corporate initiatives, community efforts, federal and state spending and resources to combat the opioid epidemic have been on the rise, the stigma of opioid addiction remains one of the biggest obstacles to combating it.  

Recent studies have found that stigma was among the most commonly cited barriers to substance abuse treatment. Pervasive stereotypes -- words like "addict," "abuse" and "drug abuser" -- not only perpetuate the stigma about opioid use disorder but can affect the type of care a person receives from their provider. 

"As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, reaching deep into many of the communities iHeartMedia serves, we are committed to using our diverse platforms and broad reach to elevate this issue -- generating real action by outlining simple things our listeners and advertisers can do to begin to eliminate the stigma around this disorder," said Alex Cameron, VP of strategic partnerships and government initiatives at iHeartMedia. "As a founding member of NOAC, we believe that information, discussion and ultimately education will reduce generalized stigma, which will lead to more effective prevention, treatment and recovery efforts for people within these communities."

Research by Shatterproof found that 75% of all people who are impacted by substance misuse are in the workforce. Meanwhile, the estimated yearly economic impact of substance abuse in the workplace is more than $442 billion. 

"Addressing a crisis of this magnitude requires everyone who has a stake to be part of the solution -- especially the business community. The people who are impacted by America’s opioid epidemic are our employees, our colleagues, and our peers," said Carolyn Cawley, president of the U.S. Chamber Foundation. "Initiatives like #TalkToMe are critical to reducing stigma and fighting this unprecedented public health crisis."

This story first appeared on campaignlive.com. 

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