CDC Launches Rx Awareness Campaign

Initiative Features Stories From Those Affected by Opioid Epidemic

October 06, 2017 04:08 pm News Staff

In 2015, 12.5 million people misused prescription opioids. Between 1999 and 2015, more than 183,000 Americans died from overdoses related to prescription opioids, and the battle to overcome this public health crisis continues.  

[Woman saying in a pull quote You never expect that you're going to lose a child. It's all out of order.]

Most recently, the CDC launched the Rx Awareness(www.cdc.gov) campaign, which features real-life testimonials of people affected by the opioid epidemic in the United States and communication tools family physicians can use to educate patients on this issue.

The campaign, which uses the tagline, "It only takes a little to lose a lot," will offer resources(www.cdc.gov) that include videos, radio spots and transcripts, social media images, internet banners, web graphics, signs and posters highlighting the importance of knowing the risks associated with prescription opioids to prevent misuse and overdose.

"This campaign is part of the CDC's continued support for states on the frontlines of the opioid overdose epidemic," said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., in a news release(www.cdc.gov). "These heartbreaking stories of the devastation brought on by opioid abuse have the potential to open eyes -- and save lives."

Story highlights
  • The CDC has launched the Rx Awareness campaign, which features real-life testimonials of people affected by the opioid epidemic in the United States and communication tools family physicians can use to educate patients on this issue.
  • Campaign resources include videos, radio spots, social media ads, internet banners, web graphics and more highlighting the importance of knowing the risks associated with prescription opioids to prevent misuse and overdose.
  • Rx Awareness campaign ads began running Sept. 25 for 14 weeks in Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Mexico.

Real Stories From Those Affected

Maybe the most powerful resources the Rx Awareness campaign offers are the stories told by those who have been affected by opioid misuse and abuse. These currently include accounts from eight people who themselves have been addicted to opioids or who have lost family members to the powerful drugs.

For example, Judy Rummler speaks about her son Steve(www.youtube.com), who she described as a gifted musician who excelled in sports. After college, Steve became a financial adviser. He suffered a back injury as an adult that left him with severe, constant pain that physicians had trouble treating. Following related depression, Steve was prescribed antidepressants and subsequently opioids.

Initially, Steve was happy the opioid medication finally provided him pain relief, but he quickly became addicted. After three years, he was visiting multiple physicians to try to obtain new prescriptions.

Steve realized he was addicted and tried rehabilitation and treatment programs numerous times without success. Finally, after completing a 28-day addiction treatment program, Steve relapsed and died of an opioid overdose at age 43.

After his death, Judy found a message on a Post-it note that Steve had written about his experience with prescription opioids: "At first, they were a lifeline; now they are a noose around my neck."

Judy, along with her husband, William, subsequently founded the Steve Rummler Hope Network(steverummlerhopenetwork.org) to "heighten awareness of the disease of addiction as it relates to the physical and emotional burdens of chronic pain and to improve the associated care process."

Five-point Strategy to Combat Opioid Crisis

HHS and the CDC have committed to using evidence-based methods to communicate targeted messages about the opioid crisis and to prevent addiction and misuse, according to the news release. Rx Awareness is part of HHS' five-point strategy to fight the epidemic by

  • improving access to prevention, treatment and recovery services, including the full range of medication-assisted treatments;
  • targeting availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs;
  • strengthening our understanding of the crisis through better public health data and reporting;
  • providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction; and
  • advancing better practices for pain management.

Curbing the misuse of prescription opioids is also important because it's a strong risk factor for heroin use, which continues to climb in the United States. In fact, among new heroin users, about 75 percent reported having misused prescription opioids before using heroin, according to the CDC.

Campaign Rollout Details

Rx Awareness campaign ads began running Sept. 25 in Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Mexico and will continue for 14 weeks. The effort is expected to later expand to additional states through funding from the CDC's Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States(www.cdc.gov) and Data-Driven Prevention Initiative(www.cdc.gov) programs.

Overall, said the agency, the success of the Rx Awareness campaign depends on state and local agencies and organizations such as the AAFP to share its messages and resources with physicians, their patients and the general public.

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