Massachusetts-wide #ResistTheRisk media campaign criticized by public health, medical professionals for utilizing harmful scare tactics

Washington (December 14, 2017) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the Department of Justice expressing concerns about recently announced media campaigns that could be harmful or even counterproductive to the goal of combatting the opioid epidemic. In particular, the Massachusetts-wide #ResistTheRisk campaign has received withering criticisms from the public health and medical communities for images and rhetoric that have proven ineffective in changing behaviors or preventing young people from beginning to use drugs. Between 1998 and 2004, the U.S. government spent close to $1 billion on a national campaign designed to discourage young people from using illegal drugs. Studies on the effectiveness of this national campaign found that, not only was it unsuccessful at positively affecting youth behavior, it may have unintentionally prompted some of its targets to experiment with drugs.
“After years of working to bring opioid use disorders out of the shadows, it is imperative that any media campaigns refrain from using language or imagery that would further stigmatize these diseases,” writes Senator Markey in his letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “As the Trump administration begins a nationwide campaign to fulfill the President’s goal of preventing substance abuse, it is imperative that we not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
A copy of Senator Markey’s letter can be found HERE.
In his letter, Senator Markey asks the Department of Justice to respond to questions that include:

  • What role did the DOJ have in designing, funding, or supporting the #ResistTheRisk campaign in Massachusetts?
  • Is this campaign related to the President’s public health emergency declaration and/or his nationwide campaign goal?
  • How will the DOJ work to ensure that input from public health professionals is incorporated into any state-based or national campaign with which it is involved?
  • In these efforts, will the DOJ consult with local public health professionals who understand the language and demographics of communities the campaigns target?