Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-11-2018


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Janie M. Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Ronald C. Arnett

Committee Member

Craig Maier


addiction, opioid, crisis communication, health crisis communication, opioid epidemic, NAS


In this historical moment, the United States is amidst an opioid crisis killing the young and the old; at least seventy-eight people die every day from an opioid-related overdose (Enomoto in Murthy III). Changing mindsets of the doctors who prescribe opioids is just as important as asking the patients who are prescribed them to demand an alternative medication. The different parties involved in the crisis all have a different agenda and their rhetorical bias is explored throughout this project. The pharmaceutical companies have launched aggressive marketing campaigns expressing the benefits of opioids and encouraged physicians to prescribe, the CDC has encouraged physicians to stop the overprescribing of opioids, and local police departments and hospitals are overwhelmed with overdoses. Understanding the vast discrepancies in health literacy between the “haves” and the “have nots” allows health communication professionals and medical professionals to collaborate on the best practice to reach the intended audience. Future generations are now being affected by their parents’ opioid usage; one must stop and realize opioids are not the solution. Perhaps one of the most important implications from this project is to suggest all women, regardless of socioeconomic status and level of health literacy, be warned of the dangers opioids pose to her and any future children. When taking opioids during pregnancy, NAS is not the only concern; but also the larger concern is the complete dysfunction that opioid addiction brings and the personal chaos it creates for addicts and their families.