State to launch anti-heroin campaign - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

State to launch anti-heroin campaign

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Heroin in particular is a big concern for law enforcement in the La Crosse area and across the state.

In response, the Wisconsin Department of Justice is investing $250,000 in an media campaign about the dangers of heroin.

"It is a big statewide problem," said Al Bliss, a health educator for the La Crosse County Health Department. "The state had designated that that was a significant problem, especially with overdose deaths that were related to 20 to 54 year olds, particularly, males."

According the State Department of Health, the proportion of drug-related deaths that involved heroin doubled between 2005 and 2010. That same report showed nearly 20 percent of drug related deaths in 2010 were the direct result of heroin.

"The biggest problem with heroin is the purity level," said Tom Johnson, the coordinator for the West Central Metropolitan Enforcement Group, or MEG Unit. "If people take an injection of high purity heroin, it can kill them right on the spot."

The DOJ's media campaign will include a statewide TV ad, radio ad and website, similar to other substance abuse campaigns.

"I have worked previously in tobacco control and at the time the state had done some media campaigns with that especially with youth and smoking and I can say that those messages have definitely been effective," Bliss said.

The content of those ads isn't known yet, but Bliss says explaining the facts about the drug, including how common and accessible it is and how addictive it is will be most valuable.

"One of the things I don't think people will understand is that one use of heroin, injecting it, you can become addicted," Bliss said.

And Johnson adds showing pictures of what heroin does to the body could also be effective.

"I think realistic pictures of people that are on heroin and how disoriented they are and how out of control their basic functions of life, it's a scary thing and maybe it's time people get scared."

The media campaign is expected to be released at the end of the summer or beginning of fall.

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