Local Stations Taking on Opioid Addiction in America

By Kevin Eck 

Over the last couple of years, an increasing number of TV stations have been devoting their investigative resources to educating viewers about the growing opioid addiction in America.

We first reported about the crisis in January 2015 when 33 Arizona stations joined up with Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Arizona Broadcasters Association to air a 30-minute show about Opioid addiction.

The NAB says every day 2,500 kids between age 12 and 17 abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time.

In Chicago, WGN Medical Watch reporter Dina Bair presented a four-part series: Hijacked – The Opioid Addiction Crisis on the station’s 9 p.m. and Midday newscasts this week.

WGN will also air a half-hour compilation special called Hijacked – The Opioid Addiction Crisis, on Sunday, April 9 at 6 p.m CT and again on Sunday, April 16 at 12 noon CT on it CLTV channel.

Drug Abuse.gov defines opioids as “a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin as well as powerful pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and many others.” From the website:

Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but they are frequently misused (taken in a different way or in a greater quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription) because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief. Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can produce dependence, and when misused or abused, opioid pain relievers can lead to fatal overdose. The current epidemic of prescription opioid abuse has led to increased use of heroin, which presents similar dangers.

In Manchester, N.H. ABC affiliate WMUR co-hosted a youth summit on opioid awareness.

“The New Hampshire Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness was an opportunity to share stories and discuss strategies related to the opioid crisis,” says the Hearst-owned station. “Early on in the event, it was clear that many of the 8,000 teenagers gathered there had been touched by the crisis.”

Hearst’s Pittsburgh ABC affiliate WTAE will air Chronicle: State of Addiction on Wednesday, March 22 at 8 p.m. ET.

“Drug overdoses involving opioids and heroin are killing more Pennsylvanians than ever before, according to various sources,” says the station about the special, hosted by Sally Wiggin.

WTAE viewers can also join an hour-long Facebook Live discussion with experts on the station Facebook page.

“When you put a spotlight on the opioid epidemic, the conversation leads to action and, hopefully, solutions,” said WTAE president and GM Charles W. Wolfertz III. “We are proud thatWTAE Channel 4 and our parent company Hearst Television have embarked on a year-long project aimed at combating the opioid crisis.”

“Addiction is a human story; these are our family members, friends and neighbors,” said Wiggin. “Our goal is to fight the stigma, find solutions and show everyone there is hope.”

We spoke with the NAB on TVSpy This Week. Click here to find out what he said about the crisis and how local stations can help.