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New Anti-Opioid Advertisements Aimed at Teens

Opioid pills spilled on a counter

The Truth Initiative was once known for its heavy-hitting anti-cigarette ads, but now they’ve taken on a new topic—the teen opioid epidemic and opioid abuse in teens. The Truth Initiative created what they describe as a series of opioid ads aimed at educating and preventing the use of these substances. The series is called The Truth About Opioids, and it recently won an Emmy in the Outstanding Special Class- Short Format Daytime Program category.

The specific video that won is called “Treatment Box: Rebekkah’s Story.” Viewers see 26-year-old Rebekkah’s battle with opioid addiction and her personal journey to recovery. The underlying theme of the campaign is that opioid addiction can happen to anyone and helping young people understand the risk of opioid misuse.

The Truth About Opioids first premiers in June 2018, highlighting first-person stories of young people’s struggles with opioid use disorder.

Teen Opioid Awareness

While the teen demographic isn’t the most impacted by the use of opioids, it is still an issue in this age group. Prescription drug misuse, including opioids, is considered one of the fastest-growing drug problems in the U.S. In 2016, 3.6% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 said they’d misused opioids in the previous year.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the percentage of older adolescents and young adults aged 18 to 25 who abuse prescription opioids is significantly higher. Even so, the role of opioid prevention programs for teens and drug awareness programs for teens remains relevant. In 2015, there were more than 4,200 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who died from a drug-related overdose. More than half of these were linked to opioids.

Some could conclude that aggressive opioid awareness campaigns like the Truth Initiative’s could be leading to declines in use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that since 2002 when reporting first started, the misuse of prescription opioids among teens has gone significantly. In 2002, the rate of prescription drug misuse was 9.6% for Vicodin, and in 2019, it was just 1.1%. The abuse rate for OxyContin among teens went from 1.7% in 2002 to 1.7% in 2019.

The Truth Initiative Advertisements

In 1996, 34% of high school seniors had smoked a cigarette in the previous month before they were surveyed. By 2019, less than 6% reported smoking cigarettes. Many have credited the Truth Initiative’s aggressive ads with helping reduce teen smoking in America.

States like Florida and California also started building on the idea of teen rebellion with ads in the 1990s. For example, rather than portraying cigarette smoking as something that can kill you, which resonates with adults but not so much with teens, they started showing teens pushing back against the tobacco companies. These advertising efforts were combined with other tactics, such as raising cigarette taxes.

Around 80% of teens recognize the Truth brand, and youth tend to remember and be more impacted by advertising with personal testimonials, which may be why the opioid ads are considered effective.

If your teen is struggling with opioid misuse or any addiction, Next Generation Village can help. Contact us today for more information.


Truth Initiative. “The truth about opioids campaign wins Emmy award.” May 6, 2019. Accessed March 2, 2020.

Rosenberg, Tina. “Weaponizing Truth Against Opioids.” NY Times, January 28, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2020. “Opioids and Adolescents.” May 13, 2019. Accessed March 2, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. “Prescription Pain Medications (Opioids).” May 2019. Accessed March 2, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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