Minnesota launches anti-opioid ad campaign

Minnesota AG Lori Swanson and Wisconsin AG Brad Schime
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel discuss their "Dose of Reality" campaign, aimed at combating prescription painkiller abuse.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

A new anti-opioid advertising campaign is directed at family and friends of potential opioid abusers rather than addicts themselves.

Attorney general Lori Swanson is spearheading the ad, called "Dose of Reality," and is urging TV stations and movie theaters to run it.

The video features a woman trying to wake an unconscious teenager with an open pill bottle nearby.

"Michael, Michael, wake up!" the woman says in an increasingly frantic cry.

Swanson says the commercials are intentionally tough because prescription opioid addiction is a growing public health threat increasingly leading to death.

"It's an ad that is intended to be jarring," she said. "It's an ad that is intended to get people's attention to this really significant problem."

Swanson is borrowing the awareness campaign from Wisconsin. It highlights the risks of painkillers, describes where people can take them for disposal and makes recommendations about how to stop the drugs from falling into the wrong hands.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican, says overdoses have overtaken car crashes and falls for accidental deaths in his state.

Since the campaign launched there, Wisconsin's drug takeback program is now second in the nation in volume behind only Texas, Schimel said. In four organized collections, Schimel says more than 207,000 pounds of unused medication has come in.

"None of us would leave a loaded handgun sitting on a counter of our home with teenagers coming in and out of the house," he said. "But how many people think about what is in their medicine cabinet? What's in their medicine cabinet is killing far more people than guns."

There were 35 fatal opioid overdoses in Anoka County last year in 100 incidents authorities responded to, according to Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo. An overdose claimed the life of one of Palumbo's relatives.

"This is directed at the people around addicts," he said. "That's who can help stop the deaths going forward."

The first-ever opioid awareness day at the Capitol is set for next Tuesday. Advocates will lay out a comprehensive plan for combatting the problem. It includes increased prescription drug monitoring, added education for doctors and requirements on pharmacies for taking back unused medicine and better explaining the dangers of painkillers.

State Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, lost his son to an overdose.

"We need to do these kind of public awareness messages because we are done. We are done. I hate seeing more families like ours suffer."