Opioid Deaths Spike Across Milwaukee County

New Illegal Drugs And Multi-Drug Use Contribute To Increase, Expert Says

OxyContin pills
AP Photo/Toby Talbot

Opioid overdose deaths have been rising in Milwaukee County. The first quarter of 2016 saw a spike in deaths, then briefly settled down only to see a rise in overdoses once again, said Sarah Schreiber, forensic technical director for the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“We normally will see a couple to a few overdoses a week,” Schreiber said. “We’ve seen on average almost two a day in the last little to over 2 weeks.”

Schreiber said of the 138 drug overdose autopsies her office has done this year, 120 have been opioid related. Opioids can be anything from heroin and morphine to codeine and oxycodone. Even fentanyl has been found.

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New illegal drugs and the use of multiple drugs at a time have contributed to the recent spike in deaths, Schrieber said. Autopsies show most individual’s bodies have had multiple drugs in them at the time of death.

“These are central nervous system depressants,” Schreiber said. “They’re going to cause respiratory depression which will ultimately cause their death when taken in excess. We’re seeing an increase in the constituents that are found in these individuals. So they’re not using one drug at a time. There’s polysubstance use going on.”

Schreiber said that the issue isn’t exclusive to Milwaukee County. Opioid use is a growing problem across the state and nation.