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Recovering addict hopes $342K ad campaign will save lives

New ad campaign to reduce stigma of substance abuse in Marion County, Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A friendly message that’s hitting the airwaves soon will be aimed at saving lives and reducing the stigma surrounding substance use disorder.

The title of the campaign from the Marion County Public Health Department is “What are friends for?” Its title hints at one of the key points: Everyone likely has someone in their circle of friends or family who is an addict with the disorder.

Oscar Sweetman, 31, says he’s tried about every drug there is. He’s got the heartbreak to prove it as well: a broken marriage, a year in jail, and an unfinished education at Hanover College. He came from a good family and got academic scholarships.

He describes substance use disorder in his life as getting on a hamster wheel where it will take extreme measures and intervention to get out. He said that’s because he would go to immense lengths to feed the pleasure center in his brain, more than the average person.

Now he’s in his second stint at Wheeler Mission as a servant leader in training, trying to help his peers beat their own demons.

“I think that an ad campaign aimed toward people in addiction especially seeking recovery, not taking that step yet but looking at it as a possibility, I think that would do a lot of good,” Sweetman said. “I think telling someone there is hope, telling them I’ve done everything you’re doing.”

For Sweetman, the turning point was when he lost all his safety nets from family and friends who loved him but just couldn’t help him anymore.

He also has a message of encouragement for others who are walking the path he’s on.

“I’ve chosen not to turn back from this. Whatever that takes, whatever measures I have to put into place, I’m going to take those. I’m gong to encourage guys and gals to do the same thing. For those who are still in it, for those who are chronic relapsers, haven’t been able to get this right, if you’re still here, there’s still hope.”

The campaign is paid for through a pair of grants totaling $341,873. Funding comes from the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ Integrating Overdose Prevention Strategies at the Local Level grant.

The campaign will run from March-June, basically almost $90,000 a month for four months.

One part of the campaign is to remind everyone of the legality of naloxone, the drug which reverses an opioid overdose, as well as easy it is to get by anyone at a pharmacy in case they have to use it.