The Trump administration on Thursday launched an anti-opioid advertising campaign that depicts shocking true-life stories aimed at deterring young people from drug use.
The scared-straight style ads include one with a young woman who unfastens her seat belt and crashes her car at high speed into a dumpster, self-inflicting injuries to get an opioid prescription.
Another story shows a young man intentionally breaking his hand with a hammer so he can score more pain pills. A construction worker slams his arm in a door in a third, and the fourth features a young man knocking a jack out from under a car, letting it fall and break his back.
The online and TV ads are meant to target younger Americans.
“Our goal is to show young Americans the dangers of misusing opioids, and how quickly one can become addicted to opioids — as short as five days,” said White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway.
The campaign is part of President Trump’s decision to treat opioid abuse as a public health emergency. He’s spoken about substance abuse in personal terms, saying his brother, Fred, died of alcoholism in his 40s. Mr. Trump said that’s why he doesn’t drink alcohol.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) developed the campaign with the Ad Council and the Truth Initiative, spending $384,000 to create the ads and leverage cooperation from private-sector partners, who are donating $30 million worth of ad space.
Administration officials said media partners, including NBC Universal and Vice, will air the ads in a way that “gets to those who need it most,” and the campaign’s website — opioids.thetruth.com — includes information about opioids, the epidemic and drug treatment.
The White House cited data that suggests young people are especially susceptible to opioid misuse:
⦁ More than two-thirds of people in drug treatment for opioids reported their first use of opioids (other than heroin) by age 25.
⦁ In 2016, three-quarters of drug-related overdoses among those aged 15 to 24 were opioid-related.
⦁ Teens in 2016 (aged 15-19) were more than twice as likely to die because of a drug overdose as they were 17 years earlier.
All told, drug-related deaths claim the lives of about 174 Americans every day, with 115 of those deaths attributable to opioid overdoses.
Legions of users got hooked on prescription opioids and turned to cheaper heroin, which is often laced with potent fentanyl from clandestine labs overseas. Many heroin users don’t know the deadly synthetic is in their supply.
The opioid addiction epidemic is largely responsible for lowering life expectancy rates in the U.S. for the past two years. It exceeds the annual death toll from things like car crashes and breast cancer, and estimates suggest it is claiming more Americans that HIV/AIDS did at the height of that epidemic.
“This is why this White House calls this ‘the crisis next door,’” Ms. Conway said.
In November, Mr. Trump — a billionaire — donated $100,000 from his government salary toward a separate ad initiative, known as the Rx Awareness Campaign, which is run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The White House said those ads were geared toward the medical community and patients of all ages.
“This goes right to the public,” Ms. Conway said.