How much do you know about drug trends in America’s Dairyland? Wisconsin may be known for its famous cheese and the Green Bay Packers. But opioids are a constant threat in this Midwest state.

No state has “just” an opioid problem. In areas with opioid problems, other drugs follow. Wisconsin heroin users turn to stimulants to balance out lows when they can’t get their drug of choice.

The drugs found the most in Wisconsin this year are:

  • Synthetic opioids
  • Heroin
  • Prescription opioids
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Prescription stimulants

Ready for some shocking stats about the top 5 drugs used in Wisconsin? Read on for more:

#1: Synthetic Opioids in Wisconsin

Synthetic opioids are a growing problem in the Midwest. In Wisconsin, fentanyl is one of the most common street synthetics. However, others include:

  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Meperidine
  • Tramadol

In 2018, most of the 838 opioid fatalities in Wisconsin were caused by synthetic opioids. 

Not everyone who uses synthetic opioids knows it. It’s common for fentanyl to make its way into other drug supplies. In 2019, Madison officials warned that a bad batch of heroin caused hundreds of fentanyl overdoses.

The state is taking action against fentanyl with the ED2 Recovery Program. ED2 offers treatment to people who seek emergency care for an opioid overdose. As of 2019, the program had a 96% success rate in getting patients to seek help. 

Another Wisconsin initiative against synthetic opioids is the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline. This resource connects you with services for recovery in Wisconsin. You can access it by calling 211 while in Wisconsin.

#2: Heroin in Wisconsin

In 2015, there were 1,141 heroin cases across 59 counties in Wisconsin. Some of the worst-affected areas include: 

  • Brown County: 82 cases
  • Dane County: 61 cases
  • Fond du Lac County: 44 cases
  • Sheboygan County: 46 cases
  • Waukesha County: 102 cases

Why heroin? Like much of the United States, Wisconsin has a problem with painkillers. In 2017, doctors wrote 52.6 painkiller prescriptions for every 100 residents.

That’s less than the national average of 58 prescriptions. But that’s not saying much, considering how high the national average is.

In 2019, opioid prescription rates are declining. People who developed an addiction while receiving those prescriptions are seeking out heroin to replace them.

Heroin is cheaper than black-market pills, it’s easier to find, and it produces a similar effect. However, it’s no safer. Heroin deaths in Wisconsin rose from 185 in 2012 to 414 in 2017.

#3: Prescription Opioids in Wisconsin

Prescription opioids had one of the biggest increases in the 5 years between 2012 and 2017. Along with other opioids, prescription painkillers remain a big source of drug turmoil in the area.

352 people died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2017. That’s a 30% increase since 2012. Since 1999, the rate of opioid overdose death in Wisconsin rose from 0.9 to 6.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2017.

Some prescription opioids abused in Wisconsin include:

  • Codeine
  • OxyContin
  • Morphine
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin

In 2016, 3% of all Wisconsin teenagers reported abusing painkillers.

Prescription painkillers were a major problem in Wisconsin for at least a 10-year period. Since 2019, doctors are prescribing fewer opioids in response to the growing epidemic.

#4: Cocaine in Wisconsin

Wisconsin labeled cocaine as a problem as early as 2001. Today cocaine isn’t a top-level threat the way it was 2 decades ago. Still, cocaine has a presence in Wisconsin.

It’s common for people buying cocaine in Wisconsin to get more than they bargained for. Fentanyl is a common addition to cocaine. It is hard to detect and can increase your overdose risk.

Worse, many people buying cocaine in Wisconsin also use opioids. Combining fentanyl with other opioids is a recipe for overdose.

In 2017, cocaine-related deaths tripled from 50 to 140 in Milwaukee. In the same time period, fentanyl was found in cocaine at 5 times the normal rate.

Underage cocaine use is a concern too. In Wisconsin, 4% of all high school students have used cocaine at least once. That includes all forms of cocaine.

#5: Methamphetamine in Wisconsin

Meth is one of the fastest-growing problems in Wisconsin today.

Meth seizures by weight increased by 1,592% between 2010 and 2014. Between 2010 and 2017, there was a 462% increase in meth use! That includes crystal meth and less-processed forms of meth.

The use of meth could be growing because it’s less costly than other stimulants in the area. People turn to meth as an alternative to cocaine or prescription stimulants.

The low cost and high potential for addiction make meth very dangerous. By 2015, there were 31 counties in Wisconsin where more people overdosed on meth than heroin.

#6: Prescription Stimulants in Wisconsin

Prescription stimulants are yet another drug that’s found on the streets of Wisconsin. As opioid prescriptions go down, stimulant prescriptions increase.

Adderall and Vyvanse are two common stimulants that are abused on college campuses and elsewhere. They’re often prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other focus problems. When they’re abused, stimulants become addictive quickly.

While opioid scripts were down by 34.2% in 2018, stimulant scripts rose by 19.6%.

Find Treatment for Substance Use Disorder in Wisconsin

You don’t have to keep struggling with SUD alone. Help is available and may include:

  • Evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication to treat long-term opioid cravings, including Suboxone
  • Daily support in the form of safe activities and check-ins with your care team 

Call your local treatment center today to make your recovery commitment! 


  1. Mills, S. (2019, August 19). Wisconsin sees drop in overdose deaths
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, March 29). Wisconsin opioid summary
  3. Opioids: Summary data dashboard. (2020, January 22)
  4. Wisconsin Department of Justice. (2015). Heroin cases by county
  5. Wisconsin Voices for Recovery. (2019, February 23). ED2 Recovery

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