Background: The “Before They Prescribe, You Decide” promotional campaign was developed to raise awareness of the links between prescription drugs and heroin abuse. This campaign is in response to the current opiate and heroin epidemic affecting not only New Jersey, but the entire country. The campaign was directed toward parents of children who potentially can be prescribed an opiate-based medication, which could lead to heroin addiction. Based on the response to this campaign and the growing number of deaths in New Jersey attributed to prescribed opioids, the decision was made that an awareness and outreach event to clearly communicate the potential for dependency of prescribed opioids was necessary for New Jersey patients, parents of patients and prescribers - both physicians and dentists.
Program background: Knock Out Opiate Abuse Day, held October 6, 2016, generated support from more than 2,000 volunteers, who distributed messages of awareness to homes and medical offices throughout the state. This volunteer distribution method was extremely important to the cost effectiveness to the program. It also allowed for the campaign to be spread to areas that might have been unreachable while providing enthusiasm on a local level for a statewide initiative.
Evaluation Methods and Results: These important prevention messages were seen by hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents. The campaign, and Knock Out Opiate Abuse Day in particular, garnered tremendous press coverage in print, television and radio. Also, the campaign engaged leaders in the community in raising their awareness of the issue, which culminated in the New Jersey Senate unanimously approving legislation designating October 6 in perpetuity as Knock Out Opiate Abuse Day in New Jersey.
Conclusions: If we are going to reverse the alarming trends of the opioid and heroin epidemic, we need to engage all stakeholders in changing practices that have proven to be potentially harmful. By engaging and challenging parents to become informed and to begin a dialogue with prescribers about the need for opioid medications as well as potential non-addictive alternatives, it is our belief that we will see significant change that will result in fewer residents in our state, and country, becoming addicted to prescription drugs and heroin.
Implications for research and/or practice: In conjunction with Rutgers University, an evaluation of the program and methods of implementation is being conducted in order to submit the research to NREPP for consideration.