Fentanyl Awareness Campaign To Protect Youth And Families Launched In Multnomah County

The Multnomah County Health Department has launched a comprehensive fentanyl awareness campaign aimed at preventing young people from initiating drug use and succumbing to drug overdoses. As part of the county’s 90-day emergency response, the campaign focuses on education and raising awareness among youth aged 13 to 20 in the Portland area.

Beginning on June 13, messages will be displayed on bus benches and bus shelters across the county. The campaign also includes digital assets on social media and streaming apps, which were launched during the first week of May. The theme of the campaign, “Expect Fentanyl,” emphasizes the dangers of fentanyl and the alarming prevalence of counterfeit prescription pills containing this deadly drug. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 7 out of 10 fake pills seized in 2023 contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. 

Fentanyl is known to be approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. A dose as small as 2 mg, equivalent to about 10 grains of salt or the tip of a pencil, can be potentially lethal. Shockingly, in 2021, 77% of drug-related overdose deaths among adolescents in the United States involved fentanyl, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. The journal also reported an average of 22 teenagers aged 14 to 18 died each week in 2022 from fentanyl-related drug overdoses caused by counterfeit pills.

Between 2018 and 2022, Multnomah County witnessed 1,406 fatal overdoses from all drugs. Among these, young people aged 15 to 24 accounted for 6% of the total overdose deaths, representing 80 out of 1,406 deaths, as per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The “Expect Fentanyl” campaign will continue until early October, specifically targeting students at the start of the 2024-2025 school year. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and TikTok will feature videos highlighting the dangers of fentanyl and providing guidance on how to protect oneself and peers.

Additionally, streaming audio ads will run on platforms like Spotify and Pandora. Billboards and advertisements on bus shelters and benches near local high schools will also be used to reach young people during their daily commutes. The campaign will provide educational materials, including posters, flyers, and handouts, for use by schools and organizations serving youth.

To develop the campaign, the Health Department collaborated with Coates Kokes, a strategic communications agency based in Portland, at a cost of $86,500. In addition, the Health Department allocated $98,284 for targeted media advertisements through October 2024. The total cost of the campaign, including the advertisements, amounts to $184,784.