Painkiller addiction hit the headlines this week, with the BBC reporting that at the end of March 2018 half of people using painkillers, antidepressants or sleeping tablets had been on them for at least 12 months.

Our latest campaign for NHS Sunderland CCG will launch later this month to raise awareness of the dangers of the long-term use of pain medication and educate healthcare professionals on how they can support their patients. Although the big idea is still under wraps for now, our Campaign Manager Alex lets you in on our process so far.

In the UK, it’s estimated that 3 million people are addicted to prescription drugs with the North East being the highest opioid prescribing region. Sunderland in particular has been labelled by the press as ’the painkilling prescribing capital of the country’, with around 350,000 painkillers prescribed to 275,000 people in 2015 (source: The Chronicle). The opioid epidemic is a hot topic in the United States, so why is there such little awareness about these drugs in the UK?

We were approached by NHS Sunderland CCG to create a city-wide awareness campaign to raise awareness of the issues, dangers and effects of high dose, long term painkillers. Naturally, any campaign or project we start, we never jump straight into creation before listening to our audience.

To kick-start this campaign, we put a call out for those who have suffered, or are still suffering, from opioid addiction to tell us about their experiences. Through anonymous digital surveys, phone interviews and reaching out to Facebook support groups, we collected the most captivating, sensitive and empowering stories to really grasp the personal struggles faced.

Knowing that there’s two sides to every story, it was important for us to get the full picture. We also ran a workshop in the North East with healthcare professionals to unpick the barriers that prescribers may face.

After several team collaboration workshops and hours of unravelling the complex issue we were facing, we realised that there were a couple of crucial elements we needed to include:

  1. Being the first of its kind in the UK, the campaign we create needs to highlight how serious this topic is, and how urgent it needs to change.
  2. Our content needs to be thought-provoking, bold and confident. The UK has suffered enough from unexpected opioid addiction.
  3. These are real lives and real problems. Empathy, sensitivity and support is key.


After months of living and breathing the world of analgesics, we’re so excited to share what we’ve come up and help shine a light on one of the biggest epidemics in the UK. Behaviour change is what we do and we’re confident with our thorough insight that this campaign will do just that.

The campaign launches city-wide in Sunderland later this month.