Minnesota Attorney General, 2007 to 2019

February 13, 2017

Minnesota launches anti-opioid ad campaign

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

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is spearheading the campaign, called "Dose of Reality," and is urging TV stations and movie theaters to run the ads.

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 voice.

Swanson said Monday that 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 said Monday that 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, he said, 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."

Schimel said in the year his state has been involved with the education campaign the number of opioid drugs prescribed in Wisconsin has dropped 11 percent. He said part of his efforts has been aimed at doctors, urging them to better warn patients about the dangers of opioid prescriptions.

The first-ever opioid awareness day at the Minnesota 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."

Sen. Chris Eaton, D-Brooklyn Center, who lost a daughter to addiction in 2007, said she expects 10 or 11 bills dealing with opioids to be considered this year, including one mandating doctors to check a database of those who already have opioid prescriptions so users cannot get prescriptions from several doctors at once.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's budget plan calls for tracking overdoses so public safety and health officials have more information when they respond to overdose cases.

Also Monday, Nebraska officials announced their own Dose of Reality program. And in Washington, President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to work together to reduce opioid trafficking across the border.

"Today's announcement that the U.S. and Canada will work together to crack down on opioid trafficking ... is a welcome step forward in our shared efforts to end this deadly epidemic," said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.