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April 7, 2021

How “I Never Thought…” Shed Light on Opioid Use in Nevada

written by

Ryan Sullivan

Account Manager

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

Opioid overdose deaths were already rapidly increasing in the months preceding the pandemic, but the latest numbers are more drastic. Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months before May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period (CDC, 2020). Synthetic opioids (aka, fentanyl) were the primary driver for these overdoses.

Clearly, the need for resources and support increased with these stats. Although resources are available, it's challenging for those suffering to take the first step toward recovery since they're often consumed by their dependence on opiates. 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 are unaware of the struggle at all.

Flipping the Narrative with Personal Stories

Given the lack of awareness regarding the many resources out there 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 in a very straightforward way that breaks through to those that needed it most. Our target audiences? Those who were currently struggling with opioid addiction, expectant mothers, veterans, and loved ones that are affected by this kind of addiction.

Our messages were 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.

Our Inspo and Our Charge

Once we partnered with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies at the University of Nevada Reno, and Three Sticks Productions, our team got to work on identifying the most impactful campaign 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 about this happening to them or their loved ones.

The idea was born: “I Never Thought…”

Those affected by an opioid dependency often feel overwhelmed, ashamed, and isolated, which is what sparked the idea of peer-to-peer support. Of empathy. Of how we could walk in their shoes and make this campaign count. 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 highlighted that no one is truly ever alone, even if you have an opioid addiction or know someone who does. Hope is out there—and it's up to you to find it.

How Did It Resonate?

Opioid addiction causes chaos in a person’s life that they never imagined possible. Through partnerships with Nevada-based organizations, including Foundation for Recovery, Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority (REMSA), Ridge House, and the There Is No Hero in Heroin Foundation, we uncovered personal stories about opioid addiction and the recovery journey. These testimonials built rapport with our audience, showing them that they aren’t the only ones who have lost the things and the people they loved most.

Some of the people we spoke with who were in active opioid recovery mentioned they never thought they would need to lose their family or become homeless to truly understand they needed to change and seek help. When all seemed hopeless, 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 others or to live 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.

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

Want to learn more? Check out our Opioid Resource Awareness Campaign case study, and explore some of the incredible videos that Three Sticks Productions produced to help change the opioid narrative.

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