Super Bowl Ads Detail the Likelihood of Teenage Overdose

By Kelly Burch 02/07/17

This year's batch of Super Bowl PSAs focused on teenage painkiller overdose.

Image: 
Man holding prescription medication bottle.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) ran two heart-wrenching public service announcements during Super Bowl LI, detailing the likelihood of teen overdoses. 

Both PSAs featured parents who were concerned about certain dangers that were less likely to kill their children than prescription drugs.

The first PSA, titled “Safe,” ran during the halftime ad break. In it, a father discusses how he always taught his daughter about gun safety, and to properly store guns in a safe.

Then he describes finding his daughter unresponsive on the bathroom floor, and finding a bottle of pills in her hand. “I should have locked it up,” the father says. The PSA ends with a grim statistic: Teenagers are more likely to die from overdose than gun fire. 

The second PSA, “Smart Phone,” features a mother who demands that her daughter not use her phone while driving—it must be locked in the glove box when she is behind the wheel.

However, the mother was less vigilant with her prescription pills. “I put the one thing in her hand that she couldn’t control: painkillers,” the mother says. The ad ends with the warning that teenagers are more likely to die from overdose than texting and driving.  

The ads' unexpected messages made their emotional pull even more poignant, said Mark Schupp of Schupp Consulting, which directed the PSAs. "There's a spin to these that I think is very effective," he said. "And when we showed them to a (preview) group, they were stunned.”

NCADA is known for dramatic Super Bowl ads that highlight the nation’s drug epidemic. Last year the Super Bowl PSA, “All American Girl,” told the story of a cheerleader turned heroin addict. Its 2015 PSA featured a mother returning home to find that her son had overdosed on heroin.

However, Schupp believed that this year’s PSAs conveyed NCADA’s message best. "I think this year's ads are the most powerful yet," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The St. Louis-based NCADA aims to prevent substance abuse and overdose, which is the second leading cause of injury death among young people. In addition to offering drug education programs in schools, the charity tries to increase awareness of addiction.

This includes facilitating conversations between parents and children, and teaching proper techniques for storing and disposing of prescription medications. “We need to let the community know that there is a problem and there are things we can do,” said Howard Weissman, executive director of NCADA.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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