"Lift The Label" Campaign Fights Opioid Addiction Stigma

By Victoria Kim 05/16/18

The campaign's goal is to reach the 67,000 Coloradans who need addiction treatment but aren’t getting it because of fear of judgment.

girl in pain with pills in her hand

Colorado is hoping to get more people to seek help for opioid use disorder (OUD) by launching a public awareness campaign, “Lift the Label,” aiming to squash the stigma surrounding opioid abuse.

State officials, advocates and supporters gathered at Civic Center Park in Denver on Monday (May 14) to introduce the $1.8 million multimedia outreach effort.

They gathered in front of a wall of 4,200 pill bottles, each representing 10 Americans who have died of heroin or prescription opioid-related overdose in 2016. The art installation served as a backdrop for the cause.

“We want people to know if they are ready to seek help, we’ve got their back,” said Reggie Bicha, head of the state Department of Human Services. “Help is available, and you’re not alone.”

The goal is to reach the 67,000 Coloradans who need treatment but aren’t getting it, Bicha noted. The stigma or fear of judgment associated with revealing a personal battle with drug addiction deters many from seeking treatment, say state health officials.

“Lift the Label” (LiftTheLabel.org) educates on all fronts—it explains the physiological side of opioid use disorder and offers statistics, personal stories, and, if you’re ready for the next step, recovery resources and treatment options.

By sharing Coloradans’ stories of addiction and recovery, the campaign tries to give a “message of hope from people who used to feel hopeless,” according to a press release.

Also in attendance at the launch of “Lift the Label” was Columbine survivor Austin Eubanks, who relied on prescription medication after getting shot twice. At one point, he was taking up to 400 mg of OxyContin per day, coupled with cocaine and other drug abuse.

In a 2016 interview with The Fix, Eubanks described how his ordeal as a survivor of the heinous high school shooting effectively served as a free pass for powerful meds. “I could literally get whatever I wanted,” he told The Fix. “Telling [doctors] I’d been shot at Columbine and lost my best friend was like [getting] an open prescription book from any doctor.”

Now seven years sober, Eubanks works for The Foundry, a substance use disorder treatment center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

“People need to hear our voices,” he said at the launch of  “Lift the Label.” “[Addiction is] not a moral failing.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr