There are plenty of places people can go to get the numbers on drug addiction in America. But there is something about putting a face to problems which somehow makes it more real for us. A campaign called “More Than Meth: Faces of Drug Arrests” offers a visual history of individual drug addiction in an effort to convince drug users to ask for help sooner rather than later.
The campaign by Rehabs.com posts mug shots taken over a period of time and multiple arrests to show the destructive effects of drugs. Even though a similar viral campaign previously used faces of methamphetamine users, Rehabs is highlighting users of oxycodone, heroin and cocaine. These drugs not only destroy lives and relationships, they also take a heavy physical toll. Mug shots can put a spotlight on problems like facial sores, tooth decay, premature aging, skin abscesses and serious weight loss.
The police photos of women and men taken over time reveal the shocking story of physical decline that addiction causes. Multiple arrests for crimes related to drug use and possession tell a powerful story. The early photos often reveal young, fresh-faced individuals. But with each arrest one can see the way drug use affects health and appearance.
The point of the campaign is not to shame or embarrass addicts, but to focus on the dramatic effects of drug addiction. Pictures convey a pathos that words fail to impart.
A previous campaign with a similar format was called “The Horrors of Methamphetamine.” That campaign was highly successful as rehab facilities recorded an uptick in calls and admissions. In addition, many who work regularly to educate the public on issues relating to drug use including teachers, police officers and border patrol agents requested permission to use the powerful images.
We can quote facts and figures all day, but they don’t create the same emotional response as seeing a story told in photos. Loved ones will be encouraged to confront the people they care for who are abusing drugs. Addicts will be motivated to reach out and request much-needed help. And public educators have an effective tool for demonstrating in irrefutable and personal terms just how damaging drug use can be. It isn’t about shame, it’s about telling the truth in a way that resonates.