New Federal Initiative To Combat Opioid Addiction Begins

Jun 18, 2018

The Department of Health and Human Services kicked off a campaign Monday to help prevent opioid addiction through education.

Nationwide, Georgia is near the top — just out of the top 10 at 11th place — in the number of overdose deaths.

President Donald Trump last October declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

"We are currently dealing with the worst drug crisis in American history," Trump said. "It's just been so long in the making. Addressing it will require all of our effort."

RELATED: Ga. Lawmaker Wants To Empower Pharmacists In The Fight Against Opioid Abuse

Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Brett Giroir
Credit Department of Health and Human Services

Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Brett Giroir now oversees the nation’s fight against opioids, which include everything from prescription pain pills to heroin.

As senior advisor to the secretary for mental health and opioid policy, Giroir hopes to influence young people and prevent addiction from grabbing hold.

The campaign’s website,, includes information about opioids, the epidemic, a link to a treatment locator and video ads showing the power of addiction.

One of those stories is Chris, of Atlanta, who broke his arm to get pain pills from an emergency room.

"This is a really hard-hitting campaign that has been targeted by the Ad Council specifically for youth, primarily in high school and in their early 20s," Giroir told GPB News.  "It tells the stories of young people, great young people, our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters."

He said everyone is at risk of addiciton and many people start by getting into pharmaceutical drugs such as OxyContin and hydrocodone. After tolerance builds and cravings kick in, those abusing the substances often move to illegal street narcotics such as heroin, which is commonly laced with synthetic compounds like fentanyl.

The campaign seeks to change attitudes, Giroir said.

"The bottom line is prevention is really important," he said. "Once you're addicted to opioids it is a long, difficult road that requires medication-assisted treatment."

Giroir said he wants people to remember addiction is a disease and those suffering need treatment.

Those who know they or a loved one is dealing with opioid abuse should carry Narcan, which is a nasal spray that can reverse an overdose, Giroir said.

"It doesn't stop the addiction," he added. "But it's really (about) lifesaving and gives a person a second chance at life."