Community partners unveil campaign to raise awareness around the fact that cocaine is likely contaminated with fentanyl and potentially fatal

(STL.News) – Several community partners this month unveiled a campaign designed to raise awareness around the fact that cocaine is likely contaminated with fentanyl and potentially fatal.

The ad campaign features images of everyday food items such as bottled water, pretzels, donuts and trail mix with the wording: “If these contain fentanyl, would you eat them? They don’t.  Your cocaine might.”

The billboard then directs people to http:www.insideyourdrugs.com, which contains links to numerous websites and partner agencies offering treatment services, additional information about addiction, and other resources.

The campaign comes as Cuyahoga County is experiencing a record number of overdose deaths involving cocaine, either on its own or mixed with fentanyl.  So far in 2019, nearly 60 percent of overdose deaths in Cuyahoga County are associated with cocaine, either as a stand-alone narcotic or mixed with fentanyl.  Investigators believe many of the people dying are not addicted to opioids, but rather cocaine users who do not realize the cocaine they ingest includes fentanyl.

The ad campaign was developed pro bono by Marcus Thomas, an award-winning Cleveland-based marketing communications agency. The client is Greater Than Heroin, a group that includes several diverse stakeholders seeking comprehensive solutions to the opioid epidemic.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio provided funding to pay for the billboards and digital advertising campaign.  Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s office, as well as Aaron Marks, who chairs the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force’s Education and Prevention Committee, were also involved in developing the campaign.

“Nobody should be using drugs like cocaine or heroin.  Our office has filed a record number of drug indictments against the people who seek to profit from this epidemic,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman.  “Yet we have to acknowledge the opioid crisis has set its sights on a new group of victims, those who use cocaine, with absolutely no idea that what they are about to take contains a deadly painkiller like fentanyl.  Making the mistake of using cocaine should not result in a death sentence.”

Fr. Bob Stec, who leads Greater Than Heroin, said: “This crisis is so real and so large that it’s going to take all of us working together to bring the awareness, help, hope and care to end this epidemic and make sure everyone finds the help and support they need.  This awareness campaign is one example of the blessing of so many working together for the good of our community.  Understanding and awareness are key in our efforts to end this crisis and build a stronger, more caring community.”

The campaign includes digital and static billboards at more than a dozen locations in Cleveland, as well as digital ads that will run on Facebook and Youtube.  The campaign will run through the end of 2019.

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