State officials launch campaign targeting opioid drug abuse
LINCOLN — Top state officials launched a public information campaign Monday in hopes of sparing Nebraska from the worst of the nation’s opioid drug abuse epidemic.
The “Dose of Reality” campaign involves public service announcements for radio and television, as well as advertisements and editorials for use by newspapers.
Gov. Pete Ricketts said the campaign aims to educate people about the dangers of prescription painkiller medicines and ways they can reduce those dangers.
So far, Nebraska has not seen as big a problem with opioid abuse as many states, he said.
But opioid overdoses killed 54 people in Nebraska in 2015, and the rate of drug overdose deaths increased more than 20 percent over the last decade.
“The state of Nebraska is certainly not at the epidemic level,” said Attorney General Doug Peterson. “We’re at the challenge point.”
The public information campaign is being launched a month after Nebraska started using a new prescription drug monitoring program.
The program tracks prescriptions for controlled substances that are written and filled in the state. The goal is to prevent people from doctor- and pharmacy-shopping to feed their addiction.
In other states, one result of such monitoring programs has been an increase in the use of street drugs, especially heroin.
Peterson said another result has been that addicts start raiding bathroom cabinets of friends and family. For that reason, he urged people to return any unused opioid pain medications to the pharmacy.
Opioids include such drugs as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl.
Peterson said it takes law enforcement, prevention and treatment to address the opioid problem. People involved with all of those areas in Nebraska gathered last fall to coordinate their efforts.
He said a shortage of treatment options, especially in rural areas, is one of the state’s biggest challenges.
Opioid abuse, because it usually starts with prescribed medication, can be found in even the most sparsely populated parts of the state and among people who do not typically use street drugs.