Video competition focuses on teen opioid abuse

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published January 11, 2017

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Why hire a marketing agency to create an anti-drug film when you can tap into the enormous pool of talent and creativity that’s waiting in our schools?

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration is teaming up with national and local agencies to launch a film contest that gives students the power to send a message to their peers about the dangers of opioid misuse.

Operation Prevention Video Challenge invites teens across the country to create unique 30- to 60-second public service announcements geared at reaching peers about the growing opioid epidemic.

“This is the first time we’ve done this competition, and it’s just another component of our partnership with the Discovery Network,” explained Rich Isaacson, of the Detroit Division of the DEA. “We’ve had a dramatic increase in overdoses and overdose deaths across America related to the use of opiate painkillers — which leads to heroin — and it’s a top priority for the DEA to address this problem.”

According to Julie Brenner, executive director of the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities,  opioid misuse is an even bigger problem in Michigan than it is across the country.

“Based on the 2015-16 Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth in Oakland County, the perception of risk is increasing over the national averages. For example, seventh-grade perception of risk is 3.3 percent higher than the national average, meaning that they do not believe that taking a (prescription) drug not prescribed to them is harmful to their health,” said Brenner in an email.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported last year that drug poisoning deaths were the leading cause of injury-related deaths in 2014, rising by 14 percent from the year before. That year, 1,745 overdose deaths were recorded — that’s an increase of more than 200 from 2013 and an increase of 1,290 overdose deaths from 1999, when 455 cases were reported.

Carol Mastroianni, executive director of the Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition, said that in the group’s most recent student survey, in 2015, 189 students from among 4,800 reported using prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them. In that same lot, 12 students reported using heroin.

“(An) important piece to realize with prescription drugs and the opioid class of drugs in particular is many times the addiction starts as a result of being prescribed medication after having a tooth pulled or sustaining a sports injury,” she explained. “Many parents grew up during a time where what the doctor has to say is not questioned and will therefore follow along with any recommendations, prescribed medications included.”

That use of prescription pain medication can often lead to heroin use, since opioid addicts can’t always sustain a habit of pills when black-market opioid medications can run upward of $100 per dose, CNN reports.

While numerous agencies are attacking the crisis from different angles, the video contest is a way for young people to get the information they need in a relatable format.

“Parent influence has declined over the years, and this is of concern. BBCC used to see parents being one of the top three most influential factors in all categories of substances. This decline has been seen nationally as well,” said Mastroianni. “We know through our work with BBCC’s Youth Action Board that teens want input and boundaries set by their parents, even though the teen may not appear to like or want the input at that time. It’s our job as a parent, and (it) does not always feel good in the moment.”

A panel of judges from Discovery Education and the DEA, along with community leaders, educators and communications experts, will select submission winners. The grand-prize winner will receive $10,000, second place will net $5,000 and third place garners $1,000.

A People’s Choice winner will be selected and awarded a trip provided by the DEA for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of DEA agent training at the DEA’s Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Winning PSAs will be featured on-air and across the DEA’s digital and social media platforms.

Locally, the competition is being supported by the ACHA and the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority.

“This nationwide initiative educates students about the science behind addiction and its impact on the brain and body,” Christina Nicholas, OCCMHA administrator of substance use services, said  in a prepared statement. “This free program helps to initiate lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom.”

Participating students must be at least 13 years old and enrolled in grades 9-12. Video entries will be evaluated based on creativity, content, persuasiveness and overall effective communication. No violent, dangerous or illegal behavior in videos will be considered.

Submissions can be entered through March 28 at OperationPrevention.com/video-challenge.

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