Heartbreaking Anti-Heroin PSAs Airing in Maryland Movie Theaters

By Zachary Siegel 07/01/16

The anti-heroin PSAs will air all summer in Harford County, Maryland, and will be seen by an estimated 131,000 movie-goers. 

Heartbreaking Anti-Heroin PSAs Airing in Maryland Movie Theaters
Photo Harford County MD/YouTube

This summer, movie theaters across Maryland’s Harford County, near Baltimore, will air public service announcements featuring young people who have lost a loved one to a heroin overdose. 

Though it may briefly kill the vibe before Finding Dory begins, County Executive Barry Glassman, who produced the PSA campaign, stresses that just because it's summer doesn’t mean kids are on a vacation from learning about drugs. 

The PSAs are intended to help bridge the “summer gap” in countywide anti-drug messaging, according to a recent press release.  

"We need to keep these conversations going because nothing is more powerful than parents talking to their kids about drugs,” Glassman stated in the release. Glassman’s administration estimates the messages will be seen by 131,000 moviegoers.

The mortality rate in Maryland isn’t taking a summer vacation either. According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland health officials reported 383 deaths from overdoses in the first three months of 2016. 

Deaths from overdose are indeed on the rise and cutting across every demographic throughout Maryland. The number of heroin-related deaths in the state more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, according to data from Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In 2014, 85% of all drug-related deaths were caused by opiates, or opiates in combination with another drug, usually alcohol. 

The first PSA features 12-year-old Jade Buddenbohn and 15-year-old Alyana Beck describing how losing their cousin to an overdose in December 2015 has impacted their young lives. Several other videos in production will feature children as young as eight years old and teens up to 18 years old. 

The age of the young people featured in the PSAs is significant for relatable messaging—something that older, less sophisticated PSAs circa 1990 lacked. The PSAs utilize what’s called a peer-to-peer format, which is recommended by experts in the field of juvenile drug prevention and by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's Heroin Task Force, according to the release.

"These are the types of stories that are resonating with our youth," said Wendy Messner, founder and president of Rage Against Addiction Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to connecting people with drug problems and their families with recovery resources.

The first anti-heroin PSA can be viewed below:

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.