In April 2015, approximately 4 million viewers hovered over their laptops and smart devices to witness Katie the Giraffe give birth to her calf, Kipenzi, during the world’s first live stream giraffe birth. Katie’s popularity paved the way for the live stream of April the Giraffe preparing to give birth at New York’s Animal Adventure Park, which aired from February 2017 until the calf’s arrival last month. The event reached epic proportions, with April’s YouTube channel receiving more than 232 million live views and over 7.6 billion minutes of live watch-time.
With live stream giraffe births captivating millions around the globe, I can’t help but ask: If we were as engaged about addiction issues as we are with watching a giraffe give birth, would the opioid epidemic finally receive enough traction for us to find a solution to the problem?
“We’ve gotten really good at law enforcement,” noted White House press secretary Sean Spicer during the March 29th White House ‘listening session’, “But the question is, how do we focus on the treatment, how do we focus on the prevention, how do we look at things that happened in the past to deter drug addiction from starting in the first place?”
Those are great questions. The fact that opioid issues are being addressed on a national level is certainly a step in the right direction; however, there seems to be a lot of talk and not enough action. News about the opioid epidemic continues to dominate headlines. Feature stories, primetime specials- the White House has even launched a new commission to combat drug addiction. Still, we seem to be no closer to solving the growing problem that is plaguing our nation. What are we missing? How do we get a message about the opioid epidemic across in a way that is as meaningful and engaging as the live stream birth of a baby giraffe?
Back to April. Aside from the fact that it’s hard not to love an adorable baby giraffe, what made April such a pop culture phenomenon? It’s interesting to note that while April was making viral history, the following events were also taking place:
- planets were discovered that could possibly harbor life
- President Trump issued a second travel ban (and had it blocked again)
- a catastrophic mudslide occurred in Colombia
- UNC won the 2017 NCAA Championship
- Shaquille O’Neal told us the world is flat
Why were the above headlines unable to steal April’s thunder? I believe the answers lies in the fact that April’s coverage was live. Live experiences resonate with us on a personal level, connecting us to content in a more meaningful way. We are wired to connect, and when we do, it alters our motivational landscape. If we truly want to solve the opioid epidemic we need to connect to it.
Most individuals will never have a connection to the horrors of opioid abuse like I have. In one case, after a six-month investigation we arrested a large contingent of mostly young women, all of whom had 20-40 bag per day heroin habits (enough to anesthetize a horse). It was a small upstate New York town- Middle America at its best, yet in its underbelly existed a raging heroin epidemic fueled by pills. As they were being processed, our investigators discovered several doses of Methadone and Suboxone that had been secreted inside their vaginas in an attempt to prevent going through withdrawal while they awaited bail in jail. I felt so bad for the female agents in my group, not a part of the job description they sell you on when you sign up!
Warning: This Drug May Kill You, a new HBO documentary about the opioid crisis that aired last Monday, stirred up a great deal of controversy by featuring a behind-the-scenes look at addicts nodding off, a child learning to administer Narcan and the heartbreaking footage of a mother lying on the floor of a grocery store aisle as her little girl cries inconsolably, tugging at her arm. Viewer reactions were emotionally charged, with many individuals outraged at what was being shown on camera. At the end of the day, the documentary did what it was supposed to. It shed light on some harsh realities and made people uncomfortable by exposing truth.
It’s hard to deny something when it is staring you in the face. No one wants to deal with the ugly truth of opioid addiction, but we must. Perhaps airing a live feed during an opioid overdose is what America needs to stimulate this dialogue to a fervor.
A Call To Education
Opioid addiction is a bipartisan political event. Opioids do not care about your party affiliation, religion, race or socioeconomic standing. The epidemic connects all of us on some level. Every healthcare company and practitioner buying, dispensing and administering controlled substances is at risk. Becoming educated by finding out if you are at risk is the first step. Only then can providers, patients, family members, and the public at large unite to develop the policies and systems to properly prevent and treat addiction.
TITAN’s Education Programs offer a full suite of training courses that keep your staff at all levels current on trends, issues, and proactive prevention measures they can take in diversion of controlled substances. Contact us today to learn more.
I must make a disclaimer: I have been using drugs, buying drugs, investigating drugs, studying drugs for the past 32 years. I am a self-professed expert in all things drugs. 26 years with the DEA, combined with personal experience taking pain pills for a bad back gives me a perspective that is quite unique. Nothing in books or on TV can prepare one to deal with the devastating issues that surround drug addiction. TITAN’s mission is to educate not only doctors and pharmacists, but the other side as well, in hopes that together we can end the story of opioid addiction once and for all.