Opioids are a class of drugs that include pain relievers available legally by prescription, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and the illegal drug heroin.

Three waves of Wisconsin's opioid epidemic

  • The first wave began in 1999. That’s when deaths involving opioids began to rise following an increase in the prescribing of opioids for the treatment of pain.
  • The second wave began in 2010. That’s when deaths involving heroin began to rise. More people began to use heroin around this time because it was cheaper and more accessible than prescription opioids.
  • The third wave began in 2014. That’s when deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl began to rise. This increase has been linked to fentanyl illegally manufactured and mixed with other drugs like heroin.

Responding to Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic is one of our top priorities. Through partnerships with state, tribal, county, and local agencies, our approach to this epidemic empowers communities to prevent misuse, expand access to quality treatment and recovery services, and reduce death and harm. Learn more about our response to Wisconsin's opioid epidemic.

Save a life. Get naloxone.

People are dying every day from opioid overdoses. But naloxone can help. Learn more about this safe and effective rescue medication.

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Logo for Resilient Wisconsin: Connected. Stronger. Thriving.Finding healthy ways to cope with challenges is more important than ever. Resilient Wisconsin offers strategies for practicing self-care, maintaining social connections, and reducing stress and anxiety. We're in this together. We'll get through this together.

Get help now: View a list of helplines, hotlines, and virtual recovery support meetings.

Last Revised: June 17, 2021