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Know Overdose

In the summer of 2018, The DOPE Project was tasked to create an educational ad campaign to raise awareness around overdose in San Francisco. While there are some examples of similar campaigns throughout the country, we knew we wanted to create something that honored the work and lives of our fellow San Franciscans, so we collaborated closely with people who use drugs and frontline harm reduction workers to develop community-specific messaging that educated people on what an overdose was and where to access naloxone, but more importantly, messaging that highlights the people reversing the most overdoses in our city: People who use drugs and frontline harm reduction workers.

How Did We Create the Campaign? 

We spent several months talking to dozens of people who use drugs across various communities and venues in San Francisco, focusing on communities most impacted by overdose: people who inject, adults and youth who are experiencing homelessness, people who use drugs in party settings, people who are housed, people who live with people who use drugs, etc… As part of the process, we asked folks what they already knew about overdose prevention and what they thought everyone else should know, and we also shared examples of different campaigns that have already been developed to see what resonated with community members. From there, we learned that there were a few key components that were important:

  • There isn’t a one-size-fits-all so the campaign needs to have different kinds of messaging for different communities
  • Information and facts are still impactful and useful
  • Drugs and drug equipment should be realistic (no 5cc huge syringes!),
  • People in the campaign should be real people and not staged, so people can see themselves in the campaign, and
  • Posters in transportation hubs, bus stations, and bars are most impactful

You can read more about the process, data, lessons learned, and recommendations from the process created by Kristen Marshall, Eliza Wheeler, and Taeko Frost by reading the full report below.

Campaign Materials

Based on recommendations and guidance from our community, we came up with three main themes for the campaigns: facts & information about overdose/naloxone; showcasing groups of real people using real drugs with accompanying prevention strategies; and real stories from real people who have reversed overdoses. You can download the full portfolio of the campaigns below:

Just the Facts

Facts and basic information on overdose prevention and naloxone access in San Francisco.

Our Experts and Their Strategies…

Real people, real friends, real strategies.

Their Portraits

In San Francisco, people who use drugs and frontline harm reduction workers are reversing more overdoses than any other group of first responders. Here are just a few of their stories.


“This campaign was inspired, shaped, and ultimately created by people who use drugs in San Francisco. They were involved in every step of the process – from telling us what they wanted to see and how they wanted to see it, what they wanted everyone to know, what they wanted to learn, and how they wanted to see themselves and their community. These are their faces and their strategies, stories, and lives, and each person featured in this campaign has helped ensure the safety and survival of their fellow San Franciscans. This work often goes unnoticed by the community at-large, and they do it without notice or compensation, every day. Thousands of people survive their overdoses every year in our city because of people who use drugs and harm reduction workers.”

Kristen Marshall, DOPE Project Manager

“These posters make us feel like this city has not forgotten us. That San Francisco DOES care about all its inhabitants. The images offer us a critical and essential message to those of us who find ourselves at risk in this epidemic, either with our own lives or the lives of our loved ones, that this complicated and unrelenting struggle does not have to be a lonely one.”

Miss Ian, SFDUU

We’d especially like to thank….

SFDUU, Glide, Urban Services YMCA and HopeSF, The Hunter’s Point Family/Urban Alchemy, The Stud SF, The Luggage Store Gallery & Tenderloin National Forest, Miss Ian, Eliza Wheeler, Katie Burk, Niyok, Johnny, Tony, Iona, Bizkit, Kelani, Katie, Priscilla, Frank C., Mark, Frank A., Andre, Ali, Ramona, Big O., Wahoo, Mike, Mattie, Bonnie & Pat, Janesta, Lolo, Blue, Sophie, Lex, Finley Kipp, and Judy Balmin. Finally and most importantly, thank you to our harm reduction community in San Francisco for entrusting us with their stories and for never giving up.

This ad campaign is especially dedicated in loving memory to Pat Bolden, and to people who use drugs, everywhere.

Do You Love These Images? 

This ad campaign would not have been possible without the expertise and dedicated vision of our friends at Finley Digital, who photographed and produced all the ads you see here. Thank you so much for your partnership and professionalism, and especially for your heart on this project!

Designed & Developed by Firefly Partners