Sam Emrich

- Prescribed to Death

The Background:

The National Safety Council is an organization dedicated to eliminating preventable deaths at work, in homes, in communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

For the first time in U.S. history, a person is more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a motor vehicle crash. How could we help NSC raise awareness of and provide resources to prevent these deaths (happening every 24 seconds in America)?

The Work:

We discovered 92 million Americans are prescribed opioids annually. But 40% of Americans still do not consider opioids to be a threat to their family. The opioid crisis in America was being perpetuated by persistent indifference — “that wouldn’t happen to me.” So, we personalized the issue by putting a face to the worst public health crisis in US history through an interactive exhibit and communications program targeting citizens, policymakers and medical providers in high-risk cities.

Prescribed to Death brought America face-to-face with the opioid epidemic, the traveling memorial features 22,000 pills carved with the faces of overdose victims.

An onsite CNC machine carved a new face every 24 minutes, the rate of fatal opioid overdose. Victim advocate rooms let visitors hear their stories, see their personal belongings, and speak with surviving loved ones. Visitors received free "Opioids: Warn Me" labels to apply to insurance and pharmacy cards, and Stericycle envelopes for proper disposal of unused prescription opioids.


Prescribed to Death has established NSC as a leader in the fight against prescription opioid overdose. The work is leading a nation from awareness of an opioid epidemic to understanding, conversation and bipartisan commitment and action.

First Lady Melania Trump; the U.S. Surgeon General and the Attorney General; and Secretaries of Labor, Energy, Health & Human Services, Education, and Interior, along with members of Congress, have spoken at or toured the Memorial -- many tweeting on social.

The campaign also resulted in:

  • 1+ billion earned impressions and 11+ million PSA video views.

  • 891% growth in social conversation during Memorial stops; 3663% following Washington visit announcement.

  • 1,021,000 million Warn Me labels and 8,500 Stericycle envelopes now in use, with millions in production.

  • 95% of Memorial visitors saying they now feel comfortable talking to a friend/relative about the dangers of opioid use

  • 60% saying they now have a major concern about prescription pain medication as a potential cause of injury or death in their family

  • 90% saying they would be very willing to ask their doctor for alternatives to opioids.

My Role:

Creative Direction, Concepting, Copywriting