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Expanding our mission with an opioid education and prevention campaign

Truth Initiative® is collaborating with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Ad Council on an opioid public education and prevention truth® campaign.

The Truth About Opioids is a comprehensive public education campaign focused on preventing and reducing misuse of opioids among youth and young adults. The multichannel campaign is designed to help young people understand the facts about opioids, the risk of addiction and the crucial role young people can play in solving the crisis within their communities.

The opioid epidemic is devastating our country, which consumes more prescription opioids than any other nation in the world. In the past year, 2.5 million young adults aged 18-25 have misused opioids, and, every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on the drugs. While prevention is an important part of the solution, we recognize it is only one part of a comprehensive effort that also includes promoting awareness and education, reducing stigma, increasing access to evidence-based treatment and recovery services, and implementing policy, law enforcement and interventions.

The first part of the campaign includes first-person, true stories of young Americans with an opioid use disorder. These stories feature the fact that “opioid dependence can happen after just five days,” and asks young people to “share the truth and spread the truth” with their peers and communities. The concept is based on Truth Initiative research, which found that there is a significant knowledge gap about opioids and their risks, as well as a desire among young people to be part of a solution.

“Truth Initiative is proud to offer our knowledge and expertise in creating youth and young adult public health messaging proven to produce real impact to address this urgent crisis that is derailing the lives of young people across our nation,” said Robin Koval, president and CEO of Truth Initiative. “We understand that opioid misuse is a complex issue that needs to be tackled from many angles. The Truth About Opioids is a multi-phased prevention effort that will unfold over time in multiple chapters across a variety of content formats that is designed to shift knowledge, attitudes and behavior among our target, including reducing the stigma associated with the tragic disease of addiction.”

Our nationally-recognized, evidence-based truth tobacco prevention campaign offers unmatched expertise and a record of success among public education programs targeted to youth and young adults. Research has proven that truth has prevented more than 1 million youth and young adults from smoking in nearly 20 years of work in tobacco prevention. The campaign has accomplished this by engaging young people in conversations about the risks of addiction and enlisting them to not only modify their own behavior, but to influence the cultural norms within their communities.

We are uniquely qualified to make an impact on the opioid epidemic, given the recognition and credibility of the truth brand and our outstanding record of success. Approximately 77 percent of U.S. youth and young adults under age 25 recognize the truth brand, and surveys of our target audience reveal that most youth and young adults agree that truth should play a role in educating the public about opioids.

Tobacco and opioid addiction overlap in several ways. For example, 73 percent of people who misused or were dependent on opioids in the past year also used tobacco in the past month. Evidence also indicates that exposure to nicotine — a highly addictive substance — primes the adolescent brain to be sensitive to other addictive substances. Addressing youth and young adult opioid addiction and misuse is a natural and needed extension of our tobacco prevention work, and the Master Settlement Agreement that created our organization authorizes us to pursue it. The agreement allows us to develop and disseminate “advertising and education programs to counter the use by youth of substances that are unlawful for use or purchase by youth.”

The reasons for this epidemic are complex, and we recognize that reducing the toll of the opioid crisis requires a comprehensive, multi-sector effort beyond the reach of public education initiatives. Our contribution to the solution will focus on what we do best — creating, disseminating and evaluating youth, and developing young adult-focused education and prevention messages.

Our role in addressing the opioid crisis will not in any way reduce our commitment or investment in the truth tobacco prevention campaign and its core mission of achieving a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco.

The news about The Truth About Opioids campaign broke on USA Today and was featured on NBC Nightly News.

For more information, read our purpose and principles of addressing the opioid epidemic.

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