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New LA County Media Campaign Aims to Help Opioid Crisis Users

LA County Opioid Crisis and it’s users

California has been one of the most progressive and aggressive states at working to slow the opioid epidemic and save lives. Through various public health initiatives, including expansion of medication-assisted treatment, the state has managed to reduce opioid overdoses and deaths over the past two years. But the work is far from over in combating this deadly epidemic.

A new public health initiative from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) seeks to educate people on the risks and harms of prescription pain medicine abuse. The use of prescription opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, has increased dramatically over the last ten years, in part due to marketing efforts by pharmaceutical companies. Though these medicines are necessary to treat many types of pain, they can also lead to abuse and addiction and have played a role in increasing opioid overdose deaths nationwide.

“Opioid misuse trends in Los Angeles County are a serious public health concern. A key component in preventing addiction, overdose, and death, is educating people about the significant risks associated with using prescription pain medications,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “If anyone is struggling with dependency, we want them to know and feel hopeful that treatment and recovery are possible.”

On an annual basis, about 3.8 million opioid prescriptions are written in Los Angeles County. Most of these prescriptions are necessary, helping control pain after major surgery or treat debilitating chronic pain. However, the most recent data from 2017 shows there were more than 480 accidental opioid-related deaths and more than 500 emergency room visits related to prescription opioid overdoses in LA County. It is these deaths and emergencies that the campaign hopes to help reduce.

What LA County Residents Should Know

The campaign, which runs in English and Spanish, will feature television and radio ads, social media advertising, and billboards that encourage people to visit, a website with reliable and easy-to-understand information about opioid use and abuse, particularly prescription opioids. The website helps visitors better understand:

  • What opioids are and how they work to fight pain 
  • What pain medicines are opioids, including Oxycontin, Percocet, and other brands
  • When these medicines are commonly prescribed, such as after surgery
  • How to take pain medicines safely
  • The risks of taking prescription opioids, such as addiction and side effects
  • Signs of prescription opioid abuse, including mood changes and taking pain medicines in a way that was not prescribed
  • Signs of overdose and what to do if someone experiences an overdose

The website’s overall goal is educate and empower 10 million residents in LA County to become an active participant in identifying abuse and stopping the epidemic. In addition to education, it offers encouraging messages on actions to take, such as talking with a doctor about safe ways to manage pain and knowing that treatment and recovery from addiction is possible.

 “Misuse of opioids has tragically touched so many lives in LA County. Far too many of our families have suffered the heartbreaking loss of a loved one due to an opioid addiction. To end this opioid epidemic, we must make people aware of local resources and treatment centers available to them,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Through this important campaign, LA County will do all it can to inform residents on how to safely use pain medications and avoid the risk of an overdose.”

Efforts Include More Than Education

The media campaign is just one important element of LA County’s fight against opioid addiction, overdose and death. It was carefully developed with the help of focus groups of LA County residents who identified key issues that helped public health officials develop marketing and messaging. In addition to public education, LA County will continue to fund and expand medication assisted treatment with the help of the state and federal government.

The medical community is also working to fight the opioid epidemic by studying new ways to treat chronic pain using non-narcotic medicines or other therapies. These efforts help reduce the number of opioid prescriptions written while ensuring that patients who need these strong medicines still receive their treatment.

Other efforts include databases to help cut down on duplicate prescriptions or drug-seeking behaviors. The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) helps keep track of all pain medicines prescribed throughout the state. Any physician who prescribes opioids and any pharmacist who supplies them must use the system to track who has been prescribed medicine and how much medicine has been dispensed. The database helps prevent “doctor shopping” where people who are addicted to opioids visit multiple physicians or emergency rooms in an attempt to get more medicine prescribed.

All these efforts combined can help save lives and empower LA County residents to find the treatment they need. At Harmony Place, we support public health education on opioid abuse and misuse. We are dedicated to helping people fight addiction and achieve long-term sobriety through comprehensive treatment and support. In addition to treatment, we help teach patients and their families about how opioids work and what treatments may be best for their health.

At Harmony Place in Woodland Hills, California, we provide a relaxing, comfortable environment for addiction treatment and recovery with many addiction treatment program options, including our Medication Assisted Treatment program. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how you or your loved one can prepare for a successful rehabilitation from drug and alcohol addiction at our California treatment center.