How “I Never Thought…” Connected the Story Behind Opioid Use in Nevada

Across the United States, 130 people will die each day of an opioid overdose (CDC, 2018).

Opioids make your brain and body believe the drug is necessary for survival which leads those who use them quickly down the path of addiction. Over the past 20 years, the number of opioid prescriptions, and overdose deaths, have quadrupled (CDC, 2017). Whether you’ve personally been affected or know someone that has, the opioid crisis is nothing short of a national crisis.

In the state of Nevada alone, opioids were involved in nearly 70% of all overdose deaths. Nevada ranks 12th highest in opioid painkiller prescribing rates (CDC, 2018) and 26th highest for opioid overdose deaths (Scholl, Seth, Kariisa, Wilson, & Baldwin, 2018).

With the growing pandemic and people at home more than ever, opioid dependency and addiction continue to be a major concern throughout the state for those in recovery and those still struggling.

While opioid overdose deaths were already rapidly increasing in the months preceding the pandemic, the latest numbers have shown an acceleration of these deaths during the quarantine. Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period (CDC, 2020). Synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) were the primary driver for these overdoses, increasing 38.4 percent from the 12-month period leading up to June 2019 compared to the 12-month period leading up to May 2020.

It only takes 5 days to become addicted to opioids.

With these numbers alone, it was obvious that the need for resources and support was great. But, while resources are available, it is challenging for those suffering to take the first step toward recovery since they are often consumed by their dependence on opiates in the first place. What makes matters worse? Loved ones are typically out of reach—either estranged from the individual suffering, do not live close enough to help, or even know that they’re struggling at all. This makes it extremely difficult to assist people who are dependent on opioids because they feel they have nothing left, and no one to turn to, so they think, “What’s the point of getting clean?”

Personal Stories About Opioid Recovery That Flipped the Narrative

Given the lack of awareness regarding the many resources available, as well as the varied ages and education levels of the audiences, we set out to make an impact by pulling at heartstrings. We wanted to change minds but do so in a very straightforward manner that would break through to those that needed it most. We targeted those who were currently struggling with opioid addiction, expectant mothers, veterans, and loved ones that are affected by an opioid addiction.

Our message was clear: you can get your life back. You’re not alone, and you never were. Recovery is possible. All you need to do is take the first step to get help, and you will be provided with the right resources. You can do this.

The Inspiration

Peer-to-peer support has been a proven method to help in recovery management. By partnering with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies at the University of Nevada Reno, and Three Sticks Productions, the team got to work on identifying what would be the most impactful for those struggling with opioid dependency. We wanted to show Nevadans that opioid dependency and addiction can happen to anyone and yet, no one ever thinks becoming dependent on opioids could happen to them or their loved ones.

The idea was born, “I Never Thought…”

Those affected by an opioid dependency are overwhelmed and often feel ashamed and isolated, so we wanted to share as many firsthand stories as we could from people who are in active recovery, those who have previously struggled with opioid addiction, and most importantly, stories from the different people who work on the frontline of the opioid crisis.

By showing that opioid dependency spans a wide range of demographics, we had people share their perceptions and highlighted that if you have an opioid addiction or know someone who does, no matter how alone you feel, that you aren’t, and that there’s always hope to get your life back.

How It Connected to Our Audiences

Opioid addiction can cause chaos in a person’s life that they never imagined possible. By partnering with Nevada based organizations such as Foundation for Recovery, Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority (REMSA), Ridge House, and the There Is No Hero in Heroin Foundation, we began sharing personal stories about opioid addiction and the opioid recovery journey, showing our audience that they aren’t the only ones who have become dependent and lost the things and the people they loved the most. We wanted to hammer in that life can get really hard when you’re dealing with opioid addiction, but a person can always turn things around. No matter what.

Some of the people we spoke with who were in active opioid recovery mention they never thought they would need to lose their family or become homeless to truly understand they needed to change and seek help. In the moments when all hope seemed lost, they never thought they could get help, and for some of them, that they were even worthy of it.

Others affected by opioid dependency never thought they would be in a position to offer support to other people and be able to live such a fulfilling life. Not only are opioids dangerous, but the addiction to them slowly begins to erode a person’s self-worth, forces isolation, and makes people do things they never would have thought they could have ever done to themselves, their families, or their friends.

This concept, “I Never Thought…,” connected the opioid epidemic through the various people who are affected by it—the people addicted, their family and friends, those who arrive on the scene, like REMSA or police, those who assist in recovery and rehabilitation, state employees, and many more.

Many of the people affected by the opioid epidemic who have seen the struggles of addiction and the hopelessness that people feel all echoed the same thing; You’re worth saving, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and there is always hope. These sentiments were so important to share with people struggling because when you’re that low, it’s harder to see the light.

While, “I Never Thought…,” highlights the first-person accounts of those who have struggled with dependency, it also highlights that there are people who want to help those struggling with addiction to get their life back. And the best way to do it? It’s to take away the stigma of talking about opioid addiction and discuss the subject more openly and honestly, with real people who have experienced it.

Opioid recovery is possible.

Read more about this project in our Opioid Resource Awareness Campaign case study and don’t forget to check out some of the incredible videos that Three Sticks Productions expertly produced to help kickstart and change the opioid narrative.

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Our Thoughts

How “I Never Thought…” Connected the Story Behind Opioid Use in Nevada

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