Online addiction treatment company Ophelia has a simple message for its audience: F*ck Rehab.

Bold? Yes, but the company wants patients to understand that rehab doesn’t always work for some people with opioid addiction. 

Ophelia believes people suffering from addiction need to instead pay attention to evidence-based medication and approaches that can offer improved outcomes.

That’s why the company rolled out its F*ck Rehab campaign this week in an effort to convince people that its approach – treating people with opioid use disorder at home, from the comfort of their screens, without “the baggage of rehab” — can be a helpful pathway for some.

On its website, F*ck Rehab states that “rehab without medication is ineffective and often deadly,” adding that “using evidence-based medicine as treatment vastly reduces the mortality rate for those addicted.”

Ophelia touts a treatment program that includes online care visits and a prescription to Suboxone — the brand name for buprenorphine, a drug that can help wean people off opioids. Buprenorphine, along with methadone and naltrexone, are safe and effective treatments for opioid use disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The controversial statement of F*ck Rehab wasn’t designed to be a momentary stunt to get attention for a treatment program, but to be the start of a complete narrative shift around needing effective, evidence-based, and universally accessible help for opioid addiction,” Jenni Friedman, VP of marketing at Ophelia, said in a statement.

The campaign, designed in collaboration with ad agency Giant Spoon, unveiled posters on the streets of Portland, Maine and Philadelphia, both metropolitan areas where Ophelia operates.

The company also isn’t shy about the provocative nature of the wording in the ‘F*ck Rehab’ campaign. 

“How many more people have to die before we collectively start using our voices in bold ways, and insisting on change?” the website states. “If that takes yelling, swearing and offending some people along the way, so be it.”

Giant Spoon COO Ian Grody, whose company’s tagline is “The agency that stirs shit up,” said “every nuance about this campaign was intentional.” 

“The use of wild posting was because most people in need of help aren’t in healthcare facilities and can’t be targeted online,” he said in a statement. “The language of protest and the street art design was inspired by Ophelia’s bold brand identity and willingness to disrupt the status quo.”

Ophelia added that the campaign seeks to “dispel myths” about rehab, noting that it can often drain people’s finances without concrete success. This is especially relevant if rehab doesn’t offer access to medication-assisted treatment as part of its plan.

Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that medication-assisted treatment can reduce opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths as well as infectious disease transmission.

Still, medications like buprenorphine are often difficult to access for people with opioid use disorder, due to bureaucratic barriers, though that could soon be changing.

The year-end omnibus legislative package passed last month included the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (MAT) and removed one of those barriers to make the medication more accessible.

The MAT bill removed an obstacle called the ‘X waiver’ that required physicians to apply for a waiver through the Drug Enforcement Administration in order to prescribe buprenorphine.

Additionally, the campaign is rolling out even as telehealth companies are experiencing some setbacks as regulatory changes enacted during the pandemic — which loosened requirements for providers to prescribe buprenorphine and other controlled substances — are now in flux.

Pharmacies are also increasingly limiting prescriptions from telehealth startups, given issues like the Adderall shortage and a tendency for some online providers to dispense medication without providing the necessary behavioral therapy to go along with it, according to Kaiser Health News (KHN).

That obstacle also affects telehealth companies that can prescribe opioid use disorder medication as well. One of Ophelia’s biggest administrative challenges is getting pharmacies to fill those prescriptions, as one of their executives told KHN.