Healthy Wisconsin: Opioids

Let’s reduce opioid abuse, misuse, overdose and deaths in Wisconsin.

Over the last 10 years, opioid-related hospital visits and deaths in Wisconsin have doubled. It’s a quickly growing problem that affects some of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations. At least six out of ten people with an opioid use disorder also have a mental illness, and one in five people with a mental health condition also have a substance use disorder. People with a substance use disorder are six times more likely than the general population to attempt suicide. Opioid use disorder can also lead to unemployment, poverty, problems at home and in school, violence, and homelessness.

Our goals

Preventing and treating Wisconsin’s opioid problems requires a variety of strategies and partners, including health care providers, law enforcement agencies, and others. Working together, we can make it harder to get prescription opioids, make it easier to prevent opioid overdose death, and make sure everyone has access to substance use and mental health programs and support.

ACEs and opioid use

Our health isn’t determined by genetics alone. Our choices and experiences—especially the experiences we have in childhood—can have a powerful impact on our long-term health. Abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are linked to poorer health and risky behaviors such as substance abuse, and the more ACEs a person has, the higher that risk becomes.

Researchers have found that ACEs such as abuse and neglect can create toxic stress in children. This toxic stress affects the pleasure and reward center of the brain—the same part of the brain that’s stimulated by opioids and other narcotics. Opioids may also contribute to a multigenerational cycle of ACEs and their associated health risks within families and communities, as the children of substance abusers are exposed to opioid misuse or abuse in the home.

It’s important to remember that ACEs may increase the odds of having health challenges, but they don’t guarantee poor health or addiction. We will continue to research the connection between ACEs and opioids and help people find positive ways to deal with life’s challenges and overcome adversity.


Learn more about opioids in Wisconsin and see how communities around the state are taking action.

Last Revised: February 4, 2022