Talk To Me: A Platform to Help Brands Combat America’s Opioid Crisis

The scale and urgency of the opioid epidemic is alarming. With 130 people dying from opioid over dose every day in the U.S., every company is connected to this crisis through their customers, employees, and communities they serve – and every brand has a role to play in combatting this crisis.

This was the message at the heart of the National Opioid Action Committee’s (NOAC) panel at Advertising Week New York. In a moving discussion moderated by Mötley Crüe Founding Member and Global Recovery Initiative Foundation Board Member, Nikki Sixx, public and private sector leaders alongside pop culture influencers discussed the critical role brands can play to combat the opioid crisis. Rooted in NOAC’s recently launched #TalkToMe public awareness campaign, the discussion explored the role of stigma as a barrier to treatment and lasting recovery, and how brands can help reduce the stigma.

Panelists Included:

  • U.S. Surgeon General, VADM Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H.
  • CDC, Director of Overdose Prevention Division, Dr. Grant Baldwin
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, President, Carolyn Cawley
  • Leidos Sr. International & Public Affairs Advisor, John Hindman
  • Emergent BioSolutions CEO, Robert Kramer Sr.
  • Former NFL player, Randy Grimes 

Key Takeaways:

  • While corporate initiatives, community efforts, federal and state spending and resources to combat the opioid epidemic have been on the rise, the stigma of opioid addiction remains one of the biggest obstacles to true progress in combating it.
  • Words matter. Pervasive stereotypes – words like “addict,” “abuse,” and “drug abuser” – not only perpetuate the stigma around opioid use disorder, but can affect the type of care a person receives from their provider. Studies have shown that  only 1 in 12 people with substance use disorder receive treatment, and stigma is most often cited as the reason why others do not seek it out.
  • Be prepared. Get Naloxone. Save a life. The  U.S. Surgeon General, VADM Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H. and Robert Kramer, CEO of Emergent BioSolutions drove home the importance of Naloxone  (also known as NARCANTM) – an opioid antagonist that is used to temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, namely slowed or stopped breathing.  Every individual has a role to play in addressing this public health crisis. Anyone can get Naloxone in pharmacies. The Surgeon General urged everyone to get Naloxone, learn how to use it, and be prepared to save a life.
  • When asked if they know someone who  has been affected by the opioid crisis, about 75 percent of Advertising Week attendees raised their hands, highlighted the breadth of the opioid crisis. The panel closed with a call to action for attendees – to visit and download free #TalkToMe campaign assets that they can use to help reduce the stigma in their own companies and communities. 
  • The panel opened with a #TalkToMe audio vignette featuring Macklemore, and an exclusive premiere of the song Talk To Me” which was written by Nikki Sixx’s band Sixx:A.M. in support of the #TalkToMe campaign.
  • Opioid use disorder is often viewed as a moral failing or character flaw that affects ‘junkies’ and ‘addicts’ in an ally somewhere. That stigma has been perpetuated by dark, hopeless, and fearful portrayals in campaigns. #TalkToMe breaks away from that stigma. Instead of alienating and shaming people, it’s designed to humanize the disorder and get people to start understanding and talking about it with compassion. It elicits a sense of hope that draws us all closer together, and opens the door to treatment and lasting recovery.  

Notable Quotes

  • “75 percent of those affected by opioid misuse disorder are in the workforce. This isn’t happening in the shadows – it’s happening in our workplaces to our colleagues and peers, but we aren’t talking about it. Employers have power to spread crucial information that can help to end the stigma.” – Carolyn Cawley, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • If you walk out this door right now, you’re more likely to run into someone who’s overdosed and in need of Narcan than someone having a heart attack or in need of CPR.” -  Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H U.S. Surgeon General, VADM
  • “Telling our stories reduces the stigma around opioid misuse disorder. It’s so important because when communities get well, families get well, and when families get well, addicts get well.” -   Randy Grimes, Former NFL player

About NOAC

NOAC is a corporate social responsibility initiative created by iHeartMedia, WPP, and the Fors Marsh Group to eliminate stigma as a barrier to opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery. Through initiatives like #TalkToMe, NOAC helps federal, state and private sector programs extend their reach and impact in communities affected by the opioid crisis. NOAC is affiliated with the Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation (GRIF) as its charitable partner. Learn more at

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