Wisconsin Issues Fentanyl Public Health Advisory

Wisconsin officials have issued a public health advisory in response to surging rates of fentanyl-related deaths in the state. On Thursday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) reported that deaths from fentanyl in the state have gone up by 97% since 2019.

DHS reported 1,280 deaths in Wisconsin from fentanyl overdoses in 2021 compared to 651 in 2019.

The DHS advisory said that fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were present in 73% of all drug overdose deaths and 91% of opioid overdose death cases in the state in the last year. It stressed that overdose deaths are increasing among persons not intentionally taking synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Cocaine-related deadly overdoses that involved unknown synthetic opioids increased by 134% since 2019. DHS stated that up to 40% of counterfeit prescription pills contain amounts of fentanyl to be fatal.

Incoming DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake told reporters that the state cannot ignore the risks involved with people taking drugs while not knowing what substances are included in them. She declared the situation to be a public health crisis and said it is “necessary to sound the alarm to prevent unnecessary deaths.”

Part of the response planned by the DHS is distributing more fentanyl test strips so that drug users will know what they have before taking it. The advisory urges people to use the strips on any drug or medical substance not personally purchased from a pharmacy.

The agency said that it will also distribute Narcan for emergency treatments. Narcan is a prescription nasal spray used for suspected opioid overdose cases when patients are nonresponsive or are having breathing problems.

The state DHS public health advisory was issued two weeks after Waukesha County issued a similar advisory regarding fentanyl and opioid overdoses. That county reported that drug overdose has become its leading cause of death not coming from natural causes. It experienced 92 drug-related deaths in 2021 and a record 95 such deaths in 2020.

Every region of the U.S. has seen significant jumps in deaths caused by fentanyl deaths over the last two years. Law enforcement officials report that the vast majority of the fentanyl that is killing Americans in record numbers is flowing into the county from Mexico. It is manufactured there illegally by drug cartels using precursor chemical inputs from China.