Senator presses DOJ on opioid campaign criticized for 'scare tactics'

Senator presses DOJ on opioid campaign criticized for 'scare tactics'
© Camille Fine

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOcasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes MORE (D-Mass.) is raising concerns about a campaign in his home state aimed at combating the opioid epidemic and questioning the Department of Justice’s role in it.

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsBiden fact checks Trump on 545 families separated at border, calls policy 'criminal' Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House MORE sent Thursday, Markey asked what the department's role was in “designing, funding or supporting” the campaign in Massachusetts.  

President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE pledged a “massive advertising campaign” against opioid abuse in a speech where he declared abuse of the drug a public health emergency.


Recently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston — along with the New England field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration — launched a statewide opioid abuse prevention campaign called #ReducetheRisk that Markey said received criticism from the public health and medical community.

“They expressed concern that the advertising campaign utilizes scare tactics that have proven ineffective in changing behaviors or preventing young people from beginning to use drugs,” Markey wrote. “These experts have warned that the use of some of the language and imagery in this campaign is not only medically inaccurate, but also stigmatizing and counterproductive.”

Markey noted that one anti-drug campaign, which cost the federal government more than $1 billion from 1998 to 2004, was later found to not only be ineffective but may “even have had an unintended and undesirable effect on drug cognitions and use,” according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health.

He said the mistakes of past campaigns shouldn’t be mirrored and wants to know if the campaign launched in Massachusetts is related to the one the president’s national emergency declaration or his pledge to launch a large-scale campaign. He also asked how the Justice Department plans to work with public health officials on such a campaign and if the department would work with those local public health officials who understand the dynamics of their community.

Advocates have said any nationwide campaign to stem the opioid epidemic would need to come with substantial funding, as hundreds of millions of dollars have been appropriated for public health campaigns in the past.

Trump is donating his third-quarter salary, $100,000, to creating such a campaign.