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Wisconsin Opioid Summary

Revised March 2019

Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths

In 2017, there were 926 overdose deaths involving opioids in Wisconsin—a rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 persons, and higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons. The greatest increase in opioid deaths was seen in cases involving synthetic opioids (mainly fentanyl): a rise from 56 deaths in 2012 to 466 deaths in 2017. Deaths involving heroin also increased significantly in the same 5-year period: from 185 deaths to 414 deaths. There were 362 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2017, a 30 percent increase from 273 in 2012 (Figure 1).

See textFigure 1. Number of overdose deaths involving opioids in Wisconsin, by opioid category. Drug categories presented are not mutually exclusive, and deaths might have involved more than one substance. Source: CDC WONDER

Opioid Pain Reliever Prescriptions

In 2017, Wisconsin providers wrote 52.6 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons (Figure 2). This was among the lowest prescribing rates in the country and less than the average U.S. rate of 58.7 prescriptions (CDC).

The rate of overdose deaths involving opioid prescriptions, however, has risen steadily from 0.9 deaths in 1999 to 6.4 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2017 (Figure 2).

See textFigure 2. Wisconsin rate of overdose deaths involving prescription opioids and the opioid prescribing rate. Source: CDC and CDC WONDER.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

NAS or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) may occur when a pregnant woman uses drugs such as opioids during pregnancy. A recent national study showed a fivefold increase in the incidence of NAS/NOWS between 2004 and 2014, from 1.5 cases per 1,000 hospital births to 8.0 cases per 1,000 hospital births. That is one baby born with NAS/NOWS every 15 minutes in the United States. During the same period, hospital costs for NAS/NOWS births increased from $91 million to $563 million, after adjusting for inflation (Figure 3).

In 2014, there were 8 cases of NAS/NOWS per 1,000 hospital births in Wisconsin due to opioid exposure during pregnancy.  This is about half the rate of women who used opioids during pregnancy in the same year (Wisconsin Department of Health).

See textFigure 3. NAS/NOWS Incidence Rate and Hospital Costs for Treatment in the United States. Source: T N.A. Winkelman, et al., 2018.

HIV Prevalence and HIV Diagnoses Attributed to Injection Drug Use (IDU)

See textFigure 4. Wisconsin: Estimated percent of male vs. female with new HIV diagnoses, by transmission category, 2016. Source: CDC and www.AIDSVU.org.
  • U.S. Incidence: In 2016, 9 percent (3,480) of the 39,589 new diagnoses of HIV in the United States were attributed to IDU. Among males, 6.3 percent (2,530) of new cases were transmitted via IDU or male-to-male contact and IDU. Among females, 2.3 percent (950) were transmitted via IDU (CDC).
  • U.S. Prevalence:In 2016, 991,447 Americans were living with a diagnosed HIV infection—a rate of 306.6 cases per 100,000 persons. Among males, 19.9 percent (150,466) contracted HIV from IDU or male-to-male contact and IDU while 21 percent (50,154) of females were living with HIV attributed to IDU (CDC).
  • State Incidence: Of the new HIV cases in 2016, 224 occurred in Wisconsin. Among males, 7.8 percent of new HIV cases were attributed to IDU or male-to-male contact and IDU.  Among females, 12.5 percent of new HIV cases were attributed to IDU (Figure 4.)(AIDSVu).
  • State Prevalence: In 2015, an estimated 5,916 persons were living with a diagnosed HIV infection in Wisconsin—a rate of 122 cases per 100,000 persons. Of those, 15.4 percent of male cases were attributed to IDU or male-to-male contact and IDU. Among females, 20.9 percent were living with HIV attributed to IDU (AIDSVu).

Hepatitis C (HCV) Prevalence and HCV Diagnoses Attributed to Injection Drug Use1

  • U.S. Incidence: In 2016, there were an estimated 41,200 new cases of acute HCV2(CDC). Among case reports that contain information about IDU, 68.6 percent indicated use of injection drugs (CDC).
  • U.S. Prevalence: An estimated 2.4 million Americans are living with HCV based on 2013-2016 annual averages (CDC).
  • State Incidence: There were approximately 103 new cases of acute HCV (1.8 per 100,000 persons) reported in Wisconsin in 2016 (CDC).
  • State Prevalence: In Wisconsin, there are an estimated 28,500 persons living with Hepatitis C (2013-2016 annual average), a rate of 640 cases per 100,000 persons (HepVu).

Additional Resources

  • Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Opioids
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Opioid Overdose

NIH RePORTER FY2018 NIH-funded projects related to opioid use and use disorder in Wisconsin: 9


  1. Not all states collect or report data on the incidence or prevalence of Hepatitis C or on how Hepatitis C is transmitted. When available, the data will be included.
  2. Actual acute cases are estimated to be 13.9 times the number of reported cases in any year.

This page was last updated March 2019

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