The internet exploded in derision this week over South Dakota’s anti-methamphetamine campaign, which features photos representing South Dakotans and some variation of the phrase “Meth: We’re On It.” But the state’s governor wants us to know that the entire endeavor is meant to get us talking.
“Hey Twitter, the whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness,” tweeted Republican Governor Kristi Noem. “So I think that’s working…” Not everyone agreed on the politician’s efficacy verdict, but there was a general consensus that with the $449,000 tagline — yes, an attempt had been made.
Perhaps the rabid response to the campaign was due to the fact that in South Dakota, the meth crisis is taking on worrisome proportions. A full 3.8 percent of young people in the state consumed the drug in 2016, according to the state’s Department of Social Services. That’s above the national average, which during the same period stood at three percent.
A Nationwide Epidemic
South Dakota, however, is hardly alone in its battle against meth addiction issues. In Wisconsin, meth has overtaken opioids as the primary drug concern. Government labs dealt with 1,452 deaths from the substance, a number that represents an increase of 450 percent since 2008. A 2016 analysis released by Wisconsin and federal law enforcement officials found that much of the drug is being shipped from Mexico to the state.
In New Mexico, methamphetamine has also supplanted black tar heroin as the state’s biggest drug concern. In 2017, the state counted 150 meth-related deaths. In 2018, that number had increased to 194.
Indeed, the western half of the U.S. is seeing a disturbing trend when it comes to meth use. Though fentanyl is the most lethal drug elsewhere in the country — accounting for 39 percent of overdose deaths — in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that meth was killing more people than any other substance. Nationwide, meth is in fourth place with 13 percent of United States overdose deaths. Still, that’s cause for concern. Four years ago, the drug was only in fourth place in terms of fatalities.
Many surmise that the rise in popularity of meth has to do with its low cost. Small wonder that even East Coast state governments are getting out in front of the rising meth crisis.
In a promotional video announcing South Dakota’s campaign, Governor Noem said that the meth crisis “impacts every community in our state, and threatens our next generation.” She encourages those aware of someone with a meth problem to call a government-administered help line. “Let’s get meth out of South Dakota,” Noem concludes in the clip.
The ads were made by a marketing agency called Broadhead, who must be currently contemplating the whole adage “all press is good press” as the media frenzy mounts.
“We didn’t want this to look like every other anti-drug campaign,” commented Laurie Gill, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Social Services. She and her team appear to have succeeded, and then some.