Prescription opioids focus of campaign
By Robert Cloud
Jed Wohlt, Waupaca County’s public health officer, wants county residents to know just how dangerous and addictive prescription opioids can be.
Commonly prescribed pain medications, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and drugs with natural or synthetic opioids, can be addictive and destructive.
Statewide, opioid-overdose deaths have risen from 111 in 2000 to 827 in 2016, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Last year, 883 people in Wisconsin died from opioid overdoses.
Of the eight opioid-overdose deaths in Waupaca County from 2014-16, Wohlt said six involved prescription drugs.
There were 230 opioid-related hospital discharges in 2016, up 37 percent from the prior year.
“Nine out of 10 participants in Drug Court started their addiction by misusing their prescriptions,” Wohlt said.
There is also a correlation between heroin and addiction to prescription opioids.
After an opioid prescription runs out, addicted patients often turn to heroin as a substitute.
As part of its efforts to prevent opioid addiction, Waupaca County is launching a four-month awareness campaign.
The campaign includes billboards, video public service announcements at Rosa Theater, radio ads and a Rise Together presentation at the Masonic Center in Manawa on Aug. 14.
The campaign’s message is “It only takes a little to lose a lot.”
One of the videos drives home the message with its poignant story of loss.
Ann Marie tells the story of how her 20-year-old son Christopher was prescribed opioids for back pain following a car crash.
“It took him five days to get addicted,” she said on the video.
His tolerance for the medication grew and he went from one to 25 pills a day.
Within two years of being prescribed opioids, 22-year-old Christopher overdosed and died.
“I’m not supposed to be the one to go get his suit and tie and pick out which sneakers I’m going to bury him in,” the mother said.
Waupaca County’s opioid awareness materials are from the Centers for Disease Control, which provided a $13,263 grant through the state’s health department to the county.
Eight other counties received grants for the opioid-awareness campaign.
Wohlt said the CDC material will be effective if it “helps people feel more empowered to talk to their doctor about their medications.”