Prescription Pain Killer Abuse in Wisconsin; Sharing a Dose of Reality

–submitted by Mary Borland; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Attorney General Brad Schimel (right) pictured here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Attorney General Brad Schimel (right) pictured here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel spoke with Rotarians on September 30 about why the Wisconsin Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and partners across the State, have launched a $1.7 million campaign titled A DOSE OF REALITY, which is working to prevent prescription painkiller abuse in Wisconsin.

Brad explained, when prescribed and used properly, prescription opioid painkillers can offer relief; however, anyone is at risk of becoming addicted, especially our young people ages 12-25. Deaths and hospitalizations from overdoses are increasing, and four out of five heroin addicts start by abusing prescription painkillers.

Brad went on to share that this problem is impacting tens of thousands of families in Wisconsin and it is now declared a public health crisis.

  • The fear of death is not strong enough to stop people from using these drugs.
  • Opiate overdoses have more than doubled in less than a decade and now exceed motor vehicle deaths!
  • Many myths on this topic, most notably the myth that only “bad” kids and only “other” families or neighborhoods are affected. The fact is, all walks of life and communities are affected by this problem.  If not for prescription opiate abuse, we may not have a heroin problem at all.
  • Most people abusing opiate drugs obtain the drugs from a family member or friend – this presents a great opportunity!
  • Addictions to opiate drugs are driving spikes in most other crimes.
  • Wisconsin is number 2 in America for pharmacy robberies, with Indiana being number 1. Brad stressed that legal enforcement alone will not solve this problem.
  • Treatment is a critical piece to the solution. 163,000 people in Wisconsin are abuins opiates.

The three key messages of the campaign to address abuse of prescription medications are:

  1. Use medications only as prescribed to you and as directed
  2. Store medications safely and securely
  3. Dispose of medications properly by dropping them off at a designated site

What can you do in addition to the three key messages above?  Check out the website and

  • Take the Pledge to Save Lives
  • Spread the word
  • Talk to your kids/grandkids about the dangers of opiate abuse
  • Ask your health care providers if there are alternative therapies available instead of taking an opiate drug. In the United States, we readily reimburse for drugs but are not good at covering addictions.  Advocate for changing this.
  • Keep track of the number of pills in your bottles
  • Dispose of unused meds promptly and safely. October 17 is Drug Take Back Day.  Last Take Back Day yielded over 20 tons of medications.  Find a medication return unit close to you to use anytime by visiting:

Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  CLICK to view the video.

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