Opioids: Understanding Data Dashboards


Below you will find answers to common questions about our opioid data dashboards.

If you prefer, watch our video about how to use the these dashboards.


How do I use this tool?

These dashboards work best when you interact with it. Additional data and information can be found by rolling your mouse over the dashboard (tapping on a mobile device). You can also click (or tap) on graphics, maps, or buttons to see even more information such as year of data or the data source. If available, filters for the data are found on the right side of the dashboard. On maps, filter to a specific county or counties by clicking (or tapping) on the map. Navigate between the dashboards using the buttons at the top the tool. Navigate back to the home page by clicking (or tapping) on “Opioid Home.”

Watch our how-to video the learn the best ways to use this tool.

How do I download data?

  1. Select the graphic displaying the data by clicking or tapping the white space next to it.
  2. Select the "Download" button in the bottom right corner of the dashboard.
  3. Select "Data" (the summary data table will appear).
  4. Select "Download all rows as a text file."

How is this tool different than the Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH)?

Data Direct: Opioids is a visual way to track the trends of Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic. It reports data in images such as charts and maps, allowing the public to understand which populations are most affected.

Data Direct: Opioids is a dynamic tool. Data is updated more regularly than WISH. The report on opioid deaths is updated monthly. The report on opioid hospitalizations is updated quarterly. The report on adult opioid usage and youth opioid usage is updated annually.

WISH is a static data report that provides information on key opioid epidemic statistics. The data provided in WISH is updated annually. However, many opioid epidemic statistics are fluid due to the nature of how the information is collected and confirmed.

For example, it can take months for a death to be officially tied to the use of opioids due to the nature of death investigations. To comply with annual federal reporting requirements, DHS freezes the data file for opioid-related deaths six to eight months after the reporting year has ended. This is the data uploaded to WISH. Opioid deaths reported after the data file is frozen are not captured in WISH. These deaths are captured in the dashboards included in the Data Direct: Opioids tool.

WISH remains the best option for researchers looking for age-adjusted rates and confidence intervals. WISH also provides additional demographic break outs and additional years of data.

The data contained in WISH allows researchers to compare data points year-to-year because the data does not change. The numbers in the Data Direct: Opioids tool are subject to change, and even data from a year ago could change if new information is reported.

What does the label “not enough data” mean?

For reasons of health information privacy and protection, counts under five and rates where the total population represented is fewer than 20,000 people are not displayed. In these cases, you will see the label “not enough data.”

To avoid seeing this label, try adding another year or two of data to the visualization.

Why are some numbers presented as estimates?

The usage data presented in the adult and youth opioid usage dashboards come from a variety of surveys. These surveys scientifically sample a target population, such as the whole Wisconsin population, or a specific portion of it, such as the state’s adult population.

The survey results, when weighted, are estimates of population figures because they are based on sample data rather than universally reported event data, such as deaths.

Survey weighting is a process that matches demographic data in the survey file to known population figures such as census data, which allows the survey results to represent the target population. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is an exception to this, as it uses a small area estimate technique to produce estimates with small quantities of data.

Why are some survey data cited as being from single years while other survey data are cited as being from multiple years?

Survey results are calculated based off information provided by a sample of the survey’s target population. Sometimes these samples are too small in order to project the results for the entire population. In these cases, the results of the survey are based off multiple years of data.

What is a confidence interval?

Population surveys collect data from samples, or subsets of a population, and are used to produce estimates of population figures. Survey results always contain some level of statistical uncertainty which is indicated by confidence intervals around the estimates. Confidence levels are based on a formula and can vary, but survey results usually have 95% confidence intervals, which means that 95 out of 100 different samples of the same population would produce estimates within that range. Visit the WISH Behavioral Risk Factor Survey Module: Confidence Intervals Around Sample Estimates webpage for more information.

Does the 2015-2016 change in how hospital encounter data was collected impact interpretation of the data presented in this tool?

The U.S. medical system switched from ICD-9 codes to ICD-10 codes in the fourth quarter of 2015. There were a number of changes in codes for hospital encounters. For this reason, looking at trends across 2015 and 2016 for hospital encounter data is not recommended.

How should I cite the information in this tool?

The recommended citation is located at the bottom of each dashboard.

Related information

Last Revised: February 17, 2020