Opioid Deaths Down in Wisconsin for First Time Since 2015

Opioid overdose deaths dropped in Wisconsin last year for the first time since 2015, with 838 opioid-related deaths in 2018, down 10% from the previous year, state health officials said Wednesday.

Before hitting a record 932 opioid deaths in 2017, the state had 850 opioid deaths in 2016 and 613 in 2015.

Of the 838 deaths in 2018, 327 involved heroin, 297 involved prescription opioids and 504 involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The numbers add up to more than 838 because more than one type of opioid can contribute to a death.

Since the start of Wisconsin’s opioid addiction epidemic 20 years ago, more than 8,500 residents have died from opioid overdoses.

State spending to address the problem, which mostly relies on federal funds, has gone from $5.1 million in 2016 to $24.7 million this year.

About 3.6 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed in Wisconsin in 2018, down from about 4.1 million in 2017 and more than 4.7 million in 2016.