Changing the way we see opioid addiction

#HopeStems from you

Statistically, Americans are currently more likely to die from an opioid overdose than a car accident. We are suffering from a widespread health epidemic, yet much hurtful stigma still exists around addiction. #HopeStems is an initiative that wants to transform the way we see the opioid crisis — to see that addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing. 

In the heart of Manhattan, we created an enormous brain installation that was made with 9,000 real carnation flowers and 200 handmade black paper poppies. The oversized, darker poppies contrasted against the light pink to depict the devastating effect opioids have on the brain. We timed #HopeStems for the same week as the Macy’s Flower Show.

I was lucky to be a part of this important and inspiring project. As a part of the McCann health team, I developed an augmented reality app that took the metaphor of the stigma associated with opioid addiction even further. When users would point their smartphone devices at the black poppies in the flower brain, they discovered hurtful and derogatory (yet very common) words often used with addiction (eg “junkie”). By tapping on each slur, users could remove the wounding words. This action made explicit that #HopeStems from seeing opioid addiction differently.