Wisconsin Substance Abuse Statistics

Located in the Midwest and home to thousands of beautiful lakes, Wisconsin has a population of close to 5.8 million people. It borders four other states and two of the Great Lakes. Milwaukee is its largest city, and its capital is Madison. Like residents of other states, people in Wisconsin struggle with alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, and the misuse of prescription drugs. Whether they live in Milwaukee or on a dairy farm in a rural area, they experience the dangers of substance abuse.

In November 2016, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute published a report on the use of alcohol and other drugs throughout the state. The Wisconsin substance abuse statistics that we share here come from this comprehensive report.

Alcohol Consumption in Wisconsin

  • Wisconsin ranked third in the nation in 2014 for binge drinking prevalence. Among adults, the state’s rate for binge drinking was 22 percent.
  • In 2014, Wisconsin’s per capita alcohol consumption among people ages 14 and older was an average of 655 standard drinks; the national average for that year was 512 drinks per person. The definition of a standard drink is provided in this chart from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  • In 2011, roughly 24 percent of Wisconsin residents who were 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol. That year, the impaired driving rate for the U.S. as a whole was 13 percent.

Wisconsin is home to famous breweries, and alcohol is commonly perceived as a fun, popular drug. However, alcohol consumption can become dangerous under a variety of circumstances.

  • fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists some of the major risks of excessive drinking, including liver damage, brain damage, alcohol poisoning, and birth defects.
  • Drinking impairs various cognitive and motor abilities, increasing the likelihood of vehicular collisions, injurious falls, and other accidents.
  • Alcohol addiction has an adverse impact on an individual’s mental health, personal relationships, and ability to hold a job or attend school.

Excessive alcohol consumption is estimated to cost Wisconsin $6.8 billion each year.

Illegal Drug Use in Wisconsin

  • Wisconsin residents between the ages of 18 and 25 are most likely to demonstrate illegal drug abuse or dependence.
  • There were 25,229 drug-related arrests in 2014, and 12 percent of the people arrested were juveniles.
  • In data collected in 2013 and 2014, 7 percent of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 reported using marijuana in the past month. Adults between the ages of 18 and 25 reported a past-month rate of 18 percent. For adults who were 26 and older, 5 percent reported past-month marijuana use. Among high school students in general, 31 percent reported using marijuana at least once in their life.
  • For illegal drugs other than marijuana, usage rates for the past month were 4 percent for teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17, 7 percent for adults between the ages of 18 and 25, and 3 percent for adults ages 26 and older.

Illegal drug use presents a variety of risks to people’s health and well-being, including the following:

  • Addiction.
  • Overdose.
  • Damage to health. For example, cocaine use may lead to a stroke or heart attack. Heroin use may lead to kidney damage. Sharing needles increases the risk of HIV and hepatitis infections.
  • Psychological and cognitive problems. For example, regular marijuana use may contribute to impaired cognition and damaging effects on brain development among younger people. A number of drugs are associated with a stronger likelihood of suicidal thoughts and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Increased risk of miscarriage or damage to the unborn child during pregnancy.
  • Arrests on various drug-related charges.

Misuse of Prescription Drugs in Wisconsin

  • Between 2005 and 2014, Wisconsin residents between the ages of 12 and 25 showed an increase in the use of publicly funded treatments for prescription drug abuse.
  • In data collected in 2013 and 2014, 9 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 25 reported using pain relievers for nonmedical reasons in the past year. Teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 reported such usage at a rate of 5 percent. For adults who were 26 years of age and older, the rate was 3 percent.
  • In 2013, 15 percent of high school students in Wisconsin reported that they had used a prescription drug for nonmedical purposes at least once in their life.

The U.S., in general, is experiencing a prescription drug abuse crisis. Opioid painkillers are particularly dangerous and addictive. Improper use can lead to dependence, serious side effects, and overdose. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also reports that prior misuse of opioid painkillers has been linked to a higher risk of subsequent heroin use.

Any prescription drug is dangerous if misused. Misuse occurs in a variety of situations:

  • Even when people have a legitimate prescription, they may fail to follow instructions on how to take the drug. Maybe they consume an unsafe dosage or combine the drug with alcohol or other substances.
  • People may borrow painkillers or other prescription drugs from someone they know. Even if they do this to address a medical issue, it constitutes improper and potentially dangerous drug use.
  • They may use these drugs to get high or for other purposes that aren’t medical.

Substance Abuse Treatment in Wisconsin

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available for people who are abusing drugs or suffering from substance addiction. These include one-on-one therapy or counseling, support groups, and residential rehabilitation programs. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services provides a resource on its website for finding treatment programs.

The best programs take a holistic approach to treatment. In addition to tackling an individual’s substance use problems, these programs address overall physical and psychological health, social environment, and life choices. The key is to empower people to heal and enjoy a successful long-term recovery. This is the approach that we take at Lakeview Health. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.