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Why Are Drug Users in Wisconsin Turning From Pills to Heroin?

In Wisconsin, drug abuse and addiction has long been a problem. In the case of alcohol, consumption rates are 10 percent above the national average. That tells a story, but even more telling is that heavy drinking, also known as binge drinking, is at a whopping 22 percent above national average and ranks third among all states.

The consequences of this, not surprisingly, are commensurate. Available data show that arrests for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated are one fifth higher that the national average and the state is at nearly three times the average arrests for liquor law violations which includes underage drinking and public intoxication.

There has been a national increase as well in the use and abuse of prescription medications for purposes other than medicinal. In Wisconsin, as elsewhere, this is more evident among younger adults. Between the ages on 18 and 25, 9% of the state's population reported having used prescription pain relievers for other than medical purposes, and in high schools, 15% reported using prescription drugs illicitly

According to Wisconsin's Epidemiological Profile on Alcohol and Other Drugs in 2016, "Wisconsin's number of drug -related deaths has exceeded 500 in nine of the past 10 years. In 2015, 873 Wisconsin residents died as a direct consequence of illicit drug use."

While it isn't simply a problem among Wisconsin citizens, the number of people in the state using heroin is much higher than it was in the past as well. The trend in increased use of heroin has followed close on the heels of tightening restrictions on the dispensing of prescription opioid pain killers and other opiate based legal, prescribed drugs.

Once a prescription drug abuser finds that the number of pills they can coax their doctor into prescribing per month is no longer sufficient to satisfy their "needs", they normally resort to finding illegal sources on the streets.

The pills on the streets will, understandably, be much more expensive than those gotten legally at the pharmacies. Also, the illegitimate drugs are often not genuine products but poorly manufactured counterfeits from clandestine labs, commonly in China with varying strengths and the true ingredients unknown.

The genuine pills which are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies can be amazingly expensive. One report showed 40 milligram pills of oxymorphone priced at $140.00 per pill.

But when addicts realize that heroin can be stronger and significantly more affordable, they make the switch. Where there's a will there's a way, and where there's a demand, there's a supply. Heroin is coming into the US from the Middle East and now from Mexico in quantities and purities never before seen.

The number of deaths nationwide involving heroin use increased from 3,041 in 2008 to 8,260 in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we're seeing this in Wisconsin as well.

Four out of five heroin addicts in Wisconsin are introduced to the drug through the overuse of prescription opioids.

The Solution? Prior to first exposure to these drugs, a full and complete education into their dangers and addiction potentials should be required. It seldom happens now.

But when the addiction and the terrible need the addicts feel has set in, full, long-term and drug-free addiction treatment is more than indicated, it's essential.

Illicit Drug Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older in Wisconsin, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2010, 2011, and 2012 NSDUHs (Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

Survey data from the NSDUH shows 4.3 % of Wisconsin adults report using heroin or another opiate (for non-medical purposes) in the last year; representing about 163,300 adults, a dramatic increase over the last decade.

Wisconsin State Government Agencies

Drug Abuse Facts

Drug Abuse Information

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