Wisconsin Public Radio

Overdose Deaths Climbing Higher in 2021

Milwaukee will likely surpass record breaking 2020, reflecting a national trend.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jul 15th, 2021 11:21 am
Drugs. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Drugs. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin increased by more than 25 percent last year, and a Milwaukee County official said this year is on track to break another record.

According to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 1,500 people in Wisconsin died from a drug overdose last year. That’s up from around 1,200 deaths the year before.

Robert Anderson, the chief of the mortality statistics branch of the National Center for Health Statistics, said 2020 was the deadliest year on record for drug overdoses in the United States since tracking began in 1968.

Anderson said Wisconsin’s increase in drug overdose deaths last year is similar to the results of other Midwest states. While he said Wisconsin’s increase isn’t as big as it was for the U.S. as a whole, he said that is only a marginal difference.

“I mean, this is, this is something where the alarm bells need to be ringing until something’s done about it,” said Anderson.

The new data indicates more than 90,000 people died across the country from overdoses last year.

Sara Schreiber, technical forensic director of the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner‘s Office, said drug overdoses are more than just a community concern.

“This is a county-wide problem, it’s a statewide problem,” said Schreiber. “And now, obviously, from the data that we have, from the national perspective, it’s a nationwide problem. So it’s not unique to any particular area. It’s not unique to any particular individual or demographic, it’s going to affect everyone in some way.”

Schreiber said the county saw 546 cases of drug overdose deaths last year, a record number. She said the county is on track to pass that number this year, calling overdoses an “epidemic.”

“It’s going to affect us all in some fashion, whether that be a close, personal, loved one or ramifications to the things that happen in our communities,” said Schreiber.

Other areas have seen similar trends.

Lynda Biedrzycki, the Waukesha County medical examiner, said 83 people died from overdoses in the county last year, up from 54 the year before.

Milwaukee has multiple strategies, including education to prevent overdoses and paramedics who can help individuals who experience an overdose, Schreiber said.

“In the end, if they end up in this office, we’re doing our best to create the statistics and the demographics that we can that can help support … the areas within our community that have a need both geographically and demographically,” said Schreiber. “How can we help the individuals that are at most risk and can benefit most from the services that can be provided from the community?”

At a national level, deaths from opioids, psychostimulants, and cocaine all increased last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Schreiber said an increasing number of deaths in Milwaukee County have been cocaine-related in the past five years.

Biedrzycki said in an email fentanyl, an opioid, is “the main trend in fatal drug intoxications.”

“Fentanyl is abundant and affordable,” said Biedrzycki. “Since the market is flooded with fentanyl, there may be more users because it is so available.”

WPR previously reported overdose deaths rose last year in Wisconsin amid increasing social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, with fentanyl also playing a factor in the additional deaths.

Listen to the WPR link here.

Drug Overdose Deaths Reached New Records In Wisconsin In 2020 was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio. 


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