Raising Overdose Awareness in San Francisco
In collaboration with the real first responders in San Francisco – people who use drugs.
“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, strategies, stories, and lives. 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 (she/her),
DOPE Project Manager
Community Awareness Campaign
The DOPE Project created an educational ad campaign to raise awareness around overdose in San Francisco.
The intention was to honor and bring to life the stories and experiences of our fellow San Franciscans. We collaborated closely with people who use drugs and frontline harm reduction workers to develop community-specific messaging.
Spread awareness about overdose basics
Educate the community about where to access naloxone and how to use it
Highlight the people reversing the most overdoses in our city – people who use drugs and frontline harm reduction workers
Uplift the Voices and Experiences of People Who Use Drugs
Harm reduction begins by listening without judgment. We spent months talking to dozens of people who use drugs across various communities in San Francisco. We spoke to people at various intersects who may be impacted by overdose in a spectrum of ways.
• What they already knew about overdose prevention
• What they thought everyone else should know
• How they viewed existing campaigns and the way drug use is portrayed
• Different communities need different messaging
• Information and facts are potent opinion-changers and can compel action
• Drugs and drug equipment should be shown in a realistic way
• People in the campaign should be real people and relatable
• Posters should be in highly-trafficked spaces like transportation hubs, bus stations, and bars
Research Translated to Words and Images
Through these interviews, three themes emerged.
Facts & information about overdose & naloxone
Images of real people using drugs coupled with prevention strategies
True stories from real people who have reversed overdoses
Just the Facts
We created a series of posters to highlight facts and basic information about overdose prevention and naloxone access in San Francisco. These ads included relevant drive by statistics to educate viewers in an accessible and high-impact way.
Real People. Real Friends. Real Strategies.
It’s hard to resonate with stock photos. Most drug awareness campaigns err on the side of overly staged or stigmatizing images. They often further stigmatize people who use drugs.
We knew it was important to show real people who use drugs in real settings with their communities and loved ones.
Portraits of People Who Use Drugs and Save Lives
In San Francisco, people who use drugs and frontline harm reduction workers reverse more overdoses than any other group of first responders. Here are just a few of their stories.
Heartfelt Gratitude to These People and Groups
This ad campaign is especially dedicated in loving memory to Pat Bolden, and to people who use drugs, everywhere.
“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 couldn’t have created this beautiful work without the help of these groups and individuals:
Urban Services YMCA and HopeSF
The Hunter’s Point Family/Urban Alchemy
The Stud SF
The Luggage Store Gallery & Tenderloin National Forest
Bonnie & Pat
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.
We also give heartfelt thanks to Finley Digital, who photographed and produced all the ads.