Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years. In 2021, there was a 52 percent increase over the previous two years. The increase in deaths is largely due to the growing presence of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which were involved in an estimated 66% of overdose deaths during this time period.1 Every day, more than 190 people die from overdoses of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. While 79% of teens report that stress and anxiety are common reasons for prescription drug abuse, 73% say they have never heard of the danger of fentanyl being added to fake pills.2
The Ad Council today launched the first part of a holistic approach to combat the overdose crisis as part of a coordinated education campaign announced earlier this year. The first phase of the campaign, designed to educate young Americans about the dangers and prevalence of fentanyl, is being funded by leading technology companies Snap and YouTube; a separate campaign in partnership with Meta, focused on educating parents about the dangers of the drug, will launch in the fall.
“Young Americans are dying from fentanyl overdose at an alarming rate, and now is the time to act,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “We are so grateful to all of our partners who are joining us in the fight against the overdose crisis and providing vital information in a time of need. This strong coalition is uniquely qualified to reach and influence young people and will enable us to make an extraordinary difference and save lives.”
Developed pro bono by creative agency JOAN and produced by JOAN Studios, the youth-focused piece aims to help young Americans understand the deadly reality of fentanyl-infused drugs by working with unexpected but highly qualified sources to educate them about these counterfeit drugs: former drug dealers.
Illegally manufactured fentanyl is increasingly being used as an impurity in illicit drug powders and used to make counterfeit prescription pills. Many young people are unaware of this trend, which means there is an increased risk of unexpectedly coming into contact with fentanyl. The Real Deal on Fentanyl campaign is funded by Snap and YouTube and aims to educate young Americans about the dangers of fentanyl and the likelihood that it is in counterfeit prescription pills and illicit drugs.
Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting the addiction crisis in the U.S., served as a consultant on the production of the campaign – partnering with Second Chance Studios and JOAN, who worked hand-in-hand with these former drug dealers to develop lessons that provide hands-on learning opportunities to educate young people about the dangers of fentanyl. The content was recorded at Holyoke High School in Holyoke, Massachusetts, an area particularly affected by the crisis. Former drug dealers took on the role of teachers – or “surrogate dealers” – for a day and educated students about the fentanyl crisis by focusing on their everyday subjects.