Amanda Maniscalco

Wisconsin Ranks Low for Drug Problems

Just four states have less of a drug problem, study finds.

By - Jun 1st, 2017 10:33 am

Pills by Tom Varco (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Pills by Tom Varco (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

A recent analysis by Wallet Hub found Wisconsin ranks fifth lowest for drug problems among the 50 states and District of Columbia. Just four states, all rural ones, ranked lower: Idaho ranked lowest for drug problems, followed by Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and then Wisconsin.

That’s not to say the state has no challenges in this area. For instance, Wisconsin opioid-related deaths have more than tripled, going from 194 deaths in 2003 to 622 deaths in 2014,  accounting for 75 percent of all drug-related deaths in the state, as a recent story in the Cap Times found.

But the state was still behind most in this area. Wisconsin ranked 31st in the number of drug overdose deaths, according to WalletHub.

The study by Wallet Hub, a personal-finance website that publishes many rankings of cities and states, compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia using 15 metrics in the three categories of drug use, law enforcement, and health issues and rehab. The District of Columbia ranked as the number one area for drug problems, ranking second-highest in both the percent of teen drug users and the percent of adult drug users. Wisconsin, by contrast, ranked 23rd in the percentage of teen drug users and 37th in the percentage of adult drug users. The state also ranked 31st in the number of drug overdose deaths per capita.

Ranking just below DC were Vermont (2nd highest), Colorado (3rd), Delaware (4th) and Rhode Island (5th) as the worst states for drug use. Blue states, with an average ranking of 18th, ranked higher than red states (average ranking of 31st). In this area, it seems, Wisconsin is a red state.

Prescription opioids are prescribed to people who have severe pain, an injury, or for recovery after surgery. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), of the 15 monitored prescribed drugs, over 53 percent were narcotics containing opioids, such as OxyContin, codeine, and Vicodin. Nationally, Alabama ranked number 1 in the number of opioid prescriptions per 100 people, while Wisconsin ranked 31st.

Even though Wisconsin ranked low compared to other states, it’s evident that drug abuse is continually increasing every year, just at a lower rate than elsewhere. For instance, the heroin death toll rose for the ninth straight year in 2015, causing 281 deaths; this is triple the number of heroin deaths in 2010, reported the Post-Crescent. Heroin is much less expensive than prescription opioids; this is a big reason why many people who abuse prescribed opioids switch to using heroin.

To combat the problem of opioid and other drug abuse, Wisconsin has implemented the Prescription Drug Monitoring System, requested grants, and developed specialized programs, like the state-funded Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) program, to further educate communities and provide medical-assisted treatment to those in need.

Fox21 reports that last year the HOPE Consortium and two other opioid treatment programs were granted a total of $2 million; $672,000 went to each program. With that help, collectively, they treated 277 patients, with 103 of them being treated at the HOPE Consortium.

Categories: Health, Public Safety

3 thoughts on “Wisconsin Ranks Low for Drug Problems”

  1. Dudemeister says:

    Good(ish) news for the cheese state. I would conjecture that the lower drug use correlates with our higher drinking rates.

    Pick your poison, I suppose. Or become a rancher.

  2. Emily Raven says:

    So tell the doctors to use the database (which is a good idea anyway) NOT to refuse to perscribe. They have all misinterpreted the law as “take your patients off opiates.” Alternative therapies and meds are often ineffective in lifelong conditions and we have been lied to that opiate based pain relievers “don’t work for chronic pain.” If a large agency suddenly said “the sky is red” would doctors lie about that too? All cutting people off does is drive them to the illicit drugs which are the real danger. Stop pathologizing seeking working relief that improves function and quality of life.

  3. Rick Deines says:

    Wherever state is ranked, it appears all are increasingly participating in a national rise in abuse. Who is offering the best prevention and treatment options and how can we learn ‘best practices’ from one another. . This isn ‘t a sport for bragging rights but a time to take on this misuse of drugs that take more lives daily.

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