Arizona agencies launch campaign to educate teens about opioid misuse
PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services and the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family launched an ongoing campaign Monday that aims to bring awareness to teens about the dangers of opioid misuse.
The “Opioids. Getting In is Easier than Getting Out” campaign is aimed at children aged 12 to 17 and uses “graphic imagery” to show the consequences of misuse and addiction, according to a press release.
“It’s almost like a horror story — you watch these teens who you can tell are in anguish, they’re in pain and basically are ultimately trapped inside of an opioid pill,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of AZDHS, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.
The campaign will provide information to youth about how opioids affect the brain, how to avoid misuse and how to seek treatment for addiction.
“Just with any other chronic disease like we would do, whether it’s diabetes or heart disease, while you treat those people that already have it, the whole point is to give people tools to prevent ever developing the opioid use disorder in the first place,” Christ said.
Christ said that teens like to experiment with different substances and often start as young as ages 11 to 13 when trying tobacco and other drugs.
“So you want to catch our kids early, before they are ever exposed, either at a party or at a doctor’s office from a sports injury … to give them the tools and resources that they can say no or to use them appropriately if prescribed,” she said.
Christ said many teens believe opioid use is widespread among their peers and that because prescription drugs are used, they’re safe.
She said one point the campaign works to drive home is that opioid use among teens is actually quite low — only 15 percent of Arizona high schoolers have misused prescription painkillers, and 1 in 54 Arizona high schoolers have tried heroin.
The campaign’s videos will appear on social media platforms and streaming music services.
The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, passed in January 2018, appropriated more than $400,000 to be used for the campaign.
The law required that the campaign be graphic and explain the legal and other long-term consequences of opioid abuse, Christ said.
“It’s much easier to get in to misuse (opioids) and to become addicted, and you’ll spend the rest of your life dealing with a chronic disease, which is opioid use disorder,” she said.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.