February 10, 2017
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683

Department of Health Services Report Highlights Opioid Overdose and Death Rates in Wisconsin

The rate of opioid overdose deaths in Wisconsin has nearly doubled over the last decade, according to a new Department of Health Services (DHS) report, “Select Opioid-Related Morbidity and Mortality Data for Wisconsin.”

The report provides statewide and county-level data on opioid-related deaths and hospital visits; neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), in which an infant is born with withdrawal symptoms from substances taken by the mother; and data on ambulance runs in which naloxone, a medication used to reverse opioid overdose, was administered.

“The misuse of opioids in Wisconsin is a critical public health issue, and this report offers key data to inform our work with local health departments, organizations, and coalitions to reduce opioid misuse, overdose and other related health problems,” said State Health Officer Karen McKeown.

The report includes these data highlights:

  • The rate of opioid overdose deaths increased from 5.9 deaths/100,000 residents in 2006 to 10.7 deaths/100,000 in 2015.
  • Rates of drug overdose deaths involving opioids were higher among counties in the southeastern region of the state, and higher among men compared with women.
  • For men, drug overdose deaths involving opioids were highest among young adults aged 25-34, and among women aged 35-54.
  • Hospital visits involving opioid acute poisoning (including overdose) increased from 25.3 to 52.0 per 100,000 between 2006 and 2014.
  • The rate of hospital visits involving heroin increased from 2.6 in 2006 to 17.4 in 2014. For men and women, rates were highest among adults aged 20-24.
  • The rate of ambulance EMS runs in which naloxone was administered rose from 51.2 to 67 per 100,000 from 2011 to 2015.
  • The rate of NAS increased from 2.0 to 8.7 per 1,000 live births from 2006 to 2014, a rate increase of 335 percent.

In 2016, DHS issued a Public Health Advisory due to the opioid epidemic.  This year, Governor Scott Walker called for a special session of the Legislature to consider recommendations presented by the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse.  New Legislative proposals will build on efforts already underway thanks to the H.O.P.E. (Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education) agenda, which includes 17 bills aimed at prevention and treatment of opioid addiction and overdose. 

For more information about opioids: