Originally Published: January 6, 2019 5:06 p.m.
PHOENIX — Arizona officials have launched an anti-opioid campaign they say targets the state's adolescents with a pair of videos showing teens trapped inside a pain pill and behind hypodermic needles that are made to look prison bars.
They are scenes that Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona Department of Health Services director, says give the videos a "horror movie feel."
But the Arizona Republic reports the video is coming under some scrutiny from critics. They say the state could take a less expensive approach to targeting opioid abuse, and that scare tactics often are not an effective deterrent for teen drug use.
The videos' target audience is youth ages 12 to 17. The $400,600 campaign set to run through June is being financed with an appropriation from the Arizona Legislature meant to develop an educational, graphic campaign about opioids, which include highly addictive medications like oxycodone pills and the illicit drug heroin.
Christ said the state developed the campaign with an advertising agency that helped conduct teen focus groups.
"There is a scary component of it. People don't realize how dangerous and how addictive these medications are," she said.
Other components of the campaign also include still images and the launch of the website , which provides information on opioid misuse and resources for youth in need of help.
A teenage boy is at the center of one of the videos while a teenage girl is the focus of the other.
Another graphic scene in the videos shows a lifeless hand beside a bottle of prescription pills.
"The state may think it's a good thing but there are studies that show after a certain amount of time, scare tactics aren't effective," Graeme Fox, of the Shot in the Dark needle-exchange program, told the Republic.
Shot in the Dark is a volunteer-driven program in Maricopa County that provides drug users with clean needles.
Fox also said money could stretch much further with a public health program focused on a syringe services, or needle exchanges.
"A single syringe costs 7 cents," Fox said. "Giving out clean syringes for a year might only be about $200."