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Opioids

This 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. A new program seeks to educate Wyoming kids on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

A prescription drug awareness group has launched a campaign to educate Wyoming’s young adults about the risks of abusing painkillers.

The group — the Wyoming Rx Abuse Stakeholders — launched the “They Didn’t Know” campaign earlier this month. It’s intent is to educate 12- to 25-year-olds about prescription drug abuse, said Laura Griffith, the executive director of Recover Wyoming.

“I think the message really is that you can’t know even with one use, that this is a deadly game of roulette,” she said Monday. “And that we wanted to kind of help inform them that even one use can be deadly. If people are mixing pills at a party with a bunch of high schoolers, that’s a deadly game.”

The campaign’s website is dominated by a slideshow with short bursts of information. For instance, it notes the myth that “many teens believe that prescription drugs are actually ‘safer’ than illegal street drugs” by pointing out the overdose statistics that show the opposite.

The campaign will include social media posts and YouTube clips, Griffith said.

It’s been in the works for the past year, when the federal government provided grant money to the state Department of Health.

The money was in turn sent to Griffith’s group, which she said acts as the fiscal arm of Rx Abuse Stakeholders.

“We feel the educational message it delivers is so important and timely,” group co-chairwoman Antoinette Brown said in a statement to the University of Wyoming, “and will go far in educating young adults and their family about the appropriate use of prescription medications, especially pain medication, and both the short- and long-term risks of abusing them.”

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The stakeholders group is an organization of health care providers, law enforcement officials and substance abuse experts in Wyoming. It was formed a decade ago, Griffith said, but operated relatively quietly until more funding became available.

In the past, health officials have said that it’s difficult to determine the severity of Wyoming’s opioid situation. Griffith said the new campaign is an attempt to stay ahead of the epidemic that’s sweeping other parts of the country, especially rural states.

“We’re under the national average, but even one overdose is one too many,” she said. “Let’s not wait.”

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Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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