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New Media Campaign Unveiled As Drug Overdose Deaths Skyrocket In Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- With drug overdose deaths skyrocketing in Philadelphia, the city's Health Department is unveiling a new media campaign aimed at preventing opioid addiction.

City health officials say too many people don't realize that prescription opioids and heroin are the same thing.

In an effort to educate people their new campaign, called "Don't Take The Risk," they will feature people who know the heartbreak of addiction.

Wendy Monaghan's 27-year-old son Ryan got hooked after doctors prescribed pain medications following a car crash.

"There are far too many "Ryans" being buried," said Wendy. "Addiction is a disease that doesn't discriminate and does destroy everyone who gets in its path."

The campaign features a video of people affected by opioid addiction.

"In 2016 we had 907 people who died of drug overdoses in Philadelphia," said Dr. Thomas Farley who is the city's health commissioner. "That's compared to about 700 the year before, so a huge increase."

Prescription Painkillers are Heroin in Pill Form #DontTakeTheRisk by Don't take the risk. on YouTube

The loss of more than 900 people in 2016 from overdoses is nearly three times the number of people who died from homicides according to the city.

"These pills are prescribed by physicians and many people feel they must be safe but they're not safe, they're very dangerous drugs," said Farley illustrating the importance of getting the message out there.

Destinie Campanella is also featured in the ad talking about her Uncle Christian, who she called her best friend, and his addiction that ended in fatal overdose.

"It spiraled out of control and I used to beg him, I'd say 'Christian please stop I'll do anything if I lose you, I'll kill myself','" she said. "'I can't live without you.'"

But she's learned to live with heartbreak, like so many others who have big hopes for the new campaign.

"I share my family's story with the hope we can encourage awareness and make a difference so the pain and suffering my family and many others have gone through can be put to something positive," said Wendy.

Ryan's story is like so many others, people start with prescription painkillers and end up on heroin because it's cheaper and easier to get.

Philadelphia health officials are also targeting doctors with a big effort to get them to limit opioid prescriptions.

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