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U.S. Attorney's Office Launches Ad Campaign Aimed At Discouraging Opioid Use

One of the ads being put up throughout the state in an attempt to counter opioid use and addiction. (Designed by Artists for Humanity/Courtesy of U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts)
One of the ads being put up throughout the state in an attempt to counter opioid use and addiction. (Designed by Artists for Humanity/Courtesy of U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts)
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The dramatic anti-addiction ads put on public transportation this week are part of a new campaign by the U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts.

The initiative called "#ResistTheRisk" involves putting up public service announcements in red, black, white and gray that are designed with the aim of discouraging opioid use and addiction.

The office spent $62,000 on the ads and complementary anti-addiction videos that will be posted online. The U.S. attorney's office, along with officials from the New England DEA office and the MBTA, held a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss campaign details.

"A lot of people aren't even aware of what an opioid is, let alone the risk of getting counterfeit pills. They're not aware that a lot of addiction begins with the misuse of pills," Acting Massachusetts U.S. Attorney William Weinreb told those in attendance.

"Our messaging campaign is not about addiction or how to get treatment for addiction," he added. "Those are important issues, and I think there are other messaging campaigns that are focused on those."

While the office has begun deploying the ads in an effort to prompt "real conversation about why people try opioids," others are critical of the campaign's approach and tone.

Among them is Richard Saitz, department of community health services chairman at Boston University's School of Public Health, who takes particular issue with the ads featuring pictures of babies born addicted to drugs. He said the overall strategy is too similar to the "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign from the '80s.

"The one with the baby on it makes it sound like 'Just Say No,' which we know doesn't work," Saitz said, "and the idea of naming it 'Resist The Risk' suffers from that same problem."

(Designed by Artists for Humanity/Courtesy of U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts)
(Designed by Artists for Humanity/Courtesy of U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts)

Saitz also said the ads may end up being counterproductive.

"I don't think this ad is going to lead to any behavior change other than somebody trying to hide their problems even further," he said. "It could be so counterproductive as to decrease the likelihood that women with addiction seek treatment."

Some of the ads went up on the MBTA and some regional transit authorities on Monday. The campaign plans to add online videos and a youth outreach program.

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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