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Public Awareness

Educate and raise awareness about substance use disorder.

Public Awareness educates the public about the disease of Substance Use Disorder and the dangers of prescription opioids and heroin. However, awareness alone does not solve the crisis.

The Public Awareness Line of Operation works to  reduce stigma and bias surrounding those in addiction and their families, as well as providing trustworthy resources and advice Our awareness efforts include partnering and engaging with national efforts and community initiatives stem the opioid epidemic.  Our multi-pronged approach includes creating educational resources, media and community outreach, and creating awareness campaigns. Specifically, our focus areas include:

  1. Leveraging select media, partnerships, and public events to create large-scale opportunities for public awareness.
  2. Educating communities about prescription drug and opioids, as well as the safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs.
  3. Creating public education campaigns to help reduce bias and stigma, focusing on substance use disorder as a health concern rather than a moral or criminal issue. Stigma towards addiction and ignorance colors our nation’s approach to drugs, effectively blocking opportunities for treatment and change.
  4. Educating and training journalists to reduce sensationalism in stories surrounding the disease of addiction, and to fairly cover the epidemic regardless of race, ethnicity, or income level.

Changing the Language of Addiction 

Terms that stigmatize substance use disorder can negatively affect the perspective and behavior of prospective  patients, clients, scientists and clinicians. Stigma and shame can be an insurmountable barrier to treatment for those who need help, as well as their families.

Clinicians, pharmacists, and behavioral health experts especially need to be aware of person-first language and avoid stigmatizing terms. (American Society of Addiction Medicine)

Words Matter One of the simplest ways anyone can help destigmatize substance use disorder is by talking about it in a non-judgemental way.  Not sure what to say?  SAFE Project highly recommends ADDICTIONARY, created by the Recovery Research Institute.

For example:

  • Say  “Person in recovery” instead of “former addict.”
  • Say “People with “substance use disorder” instead of “addict” or “junkie.”

By the Numbers:

  • 43% of Americans now say the use of opioid prescription pain relievers is a serious problem in their community, up from 33% two years ago. Regarding heroin, 37% say it is a serious problem in their community, 25% regard it as moderately serious, and 33% say heroin is not a problem where they live.*
  • 57% of Americans have experience dealing with substance misuse ranging from taking a painkiller that wasn’t prescribed to overdosing. 24% say they have an addicted relative, close friend, or that they themselves are addicted to opioids. 40% are or know someone addicted to alcohol or another type of drug. 13% have lost a relative or close friend to opioids.*

*Statistics above are from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, April 2018 Survey

  • 25% of rural Americans say that substance use disorder (including opioids)is the biggest problem facing their local community, followed by economic concerns, including the availability of jobs, poverty, and the economy. **
  • 23% of rural Americans say that substance use disorder is the most urgent health problem currently facing their community, followed by cancer (12%) and access to health care (11%) **

** Statistics above from the NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Life in Rural America Survey”, October 2018

Public Awareness Efforts: