There’s Been A 97% Increase In Fentanyl Deaths In Wisconsin

( Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services asked the public to take action to prevent further fentanyl overdose deaths after seeing a staggering increase statewide.

The department issued a public health advisory last Wednesday warning about the risks associated with drugs laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and as much as 100 times stronger than morphine.

According to the Wisconsin DHS, 91 percent of the state’s opioid overdose deaths in 2021 were due to synthetic opioids.

Between 2019 and 2021, the number of statewide fentanyl deaths increased by 97 percent, from 680 a year to over 1,200 a year.

DHS director of opioid initiatives, Paul Krupski, said the pandemic response resulted in fentanyl deaths spiking throughout the US as people were dealing with the loss of jobs and financial security as well as increased isolation, anxiety, and stress. Many of those individuals, Krupski explained, “turned to substance use as a coping mechanism.”

According to Jeremiah Winscher, special agent in charge of the Lake Winnebago Metropolitan Enforcement Group, northeastern Wisconsin has seen an increase in the supply of fentanyl. While it has always been available, Winscher said, it has never been this prevalent.

Fentanyl is especially dangerous both because it is nearly impossible to detect and because it only takes so little of it to make it lethal.

So fentanyl laced with other drugs like meth, cocaine, or counterfeit oxycodone significantly increases the risk of accidental overdose.

According to the Wisconsin DHS’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jasmine Zapata, fentanyl overdoses affect a wide range of individuals, including those as young as middle school age.

The synthetic opioid decreases heart rate and breathing, leading to decreased oxygen flow often resulting in death.

Krupski said fentanyl is extremely cheap to manufacture, creating high profit margins for dealers.

According to Jeremiah Winscher, the Lake Winnebago Metropolitan Enforcement Group has been seizing fentanyl-laced drugs “in quantities reaching the thousands at a time.”