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‘Awareness’ Campaigns Questionable

January 12, 2014
By MIKE MYER , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

With any luck, several Hollywood celebrities will agree to help me in the awareness campaign. I'm planning to address a little-known threat to public safety. Here's our motto:

"Stepping out in front of moving buses can be hazardous to your health."

Once we've spread the word on that, we'll educate people that sleeping on the railroad tracks can have unpleasant consequences.

I'm thinking some public service ads featuring a guy in his pajamas may work.

Well, why not? A group of thoughtful people in Ohio think that's the best thing to do about the plague of heroin use that has swept the state.

Seriously: Last week, a coalition of people who have been looking into the heroin problem released an 11-point Community Action Plan. No. 1 on their list is "educating citizens on the dangers of heroin use."

Apparently, the idea is that if people just knew heroin is dangerous, they wouldn't use the stuff. That could put a dent in the approximately 600 heroin overdose deaths each year in the Buckeye State.

Reminds you of the films they used to show high school juniors and seniors before the prom, doesn't it?

Some of them, at least in my day, were pretty gory stuff. A few included film taken of fatalities at car accident sites. Some had been burned to death.

And guess what? As far as I could tell, they didn't alter the prom-night behavior of anyone who saw the movies. Thank the Lord - and I mean that seriously - no one I know died from drinking and driving on prom night. Some have since then.

But the point is that we human beings are not entirely blind to danger. We know it exists. We have a tendency to assume it's always going to be the other guy who crashes or overdoses.

An awareness campaign may convince a few people to stay away from heroin. Many exposed to it will assume it's just one more case of "the establishment" trying to scare them. Those already hooked on opiates are already aware of what they've done to themselves.

How do we whip heroin and other drug problems? I wish I knew. My gut feeling is that going after the suppliers is a good first step.

Remember the "this is your brain - this is your brain on drugs" advertising campaign? That did a lot of good, didn't it?

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