Current Drug Problems In Wisconsin
Wisconsin drug rehab continues to see a growing trend of substance abuse and addiction across the state. Depending on location, various drugs are causing problems in different areas of the state. The western portion of Wisconsin has an ever growing Meth problem, while the Eastern and Central parts of the state fight the increasing number of cases involving Crack Cocaine, Cocaine, and Heroin. Marijuana is a widespread problem that is seen statewide. Wisconsin drug rehab centers are stepping up to help end addiction problems in the state.
Drug Related Crimes and The Need For Wisconsin Drug Rehab
The increasing drug problem in Wisconsin is causing an upswing in the drug-related crimes and violence in the state. The Drug Enforcement Agency and local authorities have combined forces to try and reign in on the alarming increase in Wisconsin’s drug and alcohol related problems. They have established some groups and teams to crack down on drug related problems including trafficking and distribution.
As of 2003, Wisconsin drug rehabs had more than 300 drug facilities with over 18,000 clients that were admitted for alcohol and drug addiction. Some of the centers are run by the state while others are privately owned. The number of available treatment programs in Wisconsin drug rehabs continues to increase as they pursue the fight against addiction.
Drug Problems in the State of Wisconsin
Several factors make Wisconsin an ideal geography for distributing drugs. Its diverse landscape includes a Great Lakes coastline, and the state is bordered by the states of Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan. Wisconsin’s borders alone provide many points of entry for illegal drugs into the community at-large.
The National Drug Intelligence Center has targeted three major groups primarily responsible for transporting drugs across state lines to be divided among distributors and sold. These groups include:
- Dominican criminal groups who bring heroin and cocaine
- Mexican drug lords who bring marijuana cocaine and methamphetamine
- Nigerian drug organizations who bring Southeast Asian heroin
Based on a 2001 “Wisconsin Drug Threat Assessment” report, these groups bring drugs into Wisconsin, especially Milwaukee using private cars, buses, commercial trucks, air parcel and package delivery services, railways and couriers on commercial airlines. The NDIC has also determined that most of these drugs become retail sales through three major gangs: the Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, and Vice Lords.
The Special Threat of Heroin
Although a decade ago, heroin abuse was not considered as abusive a drug as others that are trafficked into Wisconsin, it is now considered a rising epidemic across the state. In fact, it has become one of the most popular substances for illicit drug use in the state. The perception with heroin has been that it is mostly used in the major cities and does not touch communities that lie beyond big-city borders. Drug enforcement officials and other experts have found this trend reversing itself in Wisconsin. Heroin has made a significant impact on small towns and suburban neighborhoods.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, it’s hard to determine a person is a heroin addict merely by observing his appearance. This highly addictive drug can be smoked, sniffed or injected by needle right into the bloodstream, and the people who are users do not always have a disheveled or disoriented appearance. The biggest group of users, based on Wisconsin DOJ statistics, is teens and young adults, and this population hails from all social and economic classes.
The lure of heroin becomes more tempting to a youth population that can no longer easily get its hands on prescription drugs. In almost every state across the nation, prescription drugs that have the greatest potential for abuse must be purchased with a state or federally issued identification card. State and federal governments track these prescriptions through prescription drug monitoring programs as a way to minimize illegal drug labs and control abuse. The main purposes of most PDMPs are to:
- Help healthcare workers with patient care
- Give early warning signs of impending drug epidemics
- Detect drug diversion
- Catch insurance fraud
So far, 35 states have passed state legislation and enacted PDMP programs. There are 13 other states that have passed PDMPs, but the programs are not yet operational. The programs in active states are financed by both state and federal funding.
Although the legislation was passed for Wisconsin in May 2010 requiring pharmacists to document prescription drug dispensing to the Pharmacy Examining Board, regulations are still pending. Currently, there is planning at the national level to create rules for properly disposing of unused, unneeded or expired medications. This would help the Drug Enforcement Agency curb the use of diverted controlled substances. Some of the programming planned includes take-back events and public education roll-outs.
PDMPs make it prohibitive for young people to get unauthorized prescription drugs. As an alternative, they often turn to the streets and pay $10 to $20 for heroin. For most young people, the attraction with heroin is that it gives the same intense high at a fraction of the cost of prescription drugs. The affordability factor that comes with heroin makes it a more popular drug among average citizens who earn an average income and have other responsibilities.
The city of Marinette, Wisconsin came infamously into the national spotlight in 2008 after a federal investigation found a doctor illegally distributing prescription opiates. While the legal seizure of this practice may have been an effective crackdown, the craving for a drug with a similar power had already been established among residents and drug abusers. Many experts believe this led to a sharp rise in the popularity of heroin.
From the time the doctor was arrested in 2008 until 2012, the number of heroin seizures by law enforcement was almost double in Marinette County than any other county in Wisconsin. A survey of county coroners throughout Wisconsin by the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team found that there were 199 overdose deaths attributable to heroin for 2012. This is a 50-percent rise from the previous similar analysis period.
The heroin trend is not unique to Marinette County. It mirrors what is happening across the state, and possibly across the country. Heroin is the new drug of choice. It does not deplete personal income, does not readily give itself away through any bedraggled physical appearance, and it allows the abuser to remain functional in daily routines. Heroin addicts, it seems, can hide in plain sight.
Crime Rates and Drugs
The opinion of some legal professionals is that Wisconsin law is tough on drug offenders. If a person commits a single drug-related offense, it is entirely possible that he may receive both state and federal charges for this offense. Additionally, this can mean two separate sentences for a drug crime and a sentencing fate that is widely subjective and variable.
The decision of whether these sentences will be served concurrently or sequentially is often up to a judge or prosecutor, so there are no real minimums or caps that defendants can expect. Most people who are hit with drug charges are usually charged with possession, selling or possession with the intent to sell. If the charges are federal, often there may be an additional conspiracy charge added, which can add more time to a state sentence.
Despite these tough penalties for breaking the law with drugs, the most recent data shows that legal consequences do not always effectively deter offenders. The intersection of drugs and crime rates has resulted in the following annual numbers for Wisconsin:
- Approximately 126,207 drug-related arrests
- 5,992 motor vehicle injuries related to drugs and alcohol
- 2082 deaths that result from drug use and abuse
The University of Wisconsin statistics also show that the state has the highest incidence of people 12 and older using the painkiller OxyContin. Teens often grind up these pills and use them like street drugs to get a similar street drug high. In recent times, this kind of abuse has become tougher to achieve with OxyContin, though. Purdue Pharma, who makes the drug, reformulated it so that when it is crushed, it turns to jelly instead of powder. Abusers have not figured out how to transform the pulp into substances that mirror the street drugs.
The Centers for Disease Control illuminate the effect that drug use in Wisconsin has contributed to the death toll. About 639 people across the state died as a direct result of drug use in 2007. This number falls between those who died in car accidents, 809, and those who died from injuries caused by firearms, 488. Drug-induced deaths in Wisconsin were lower than the national average: 11.4 per 100,000 people in Wisconsin and 12.7 per 100,000 population for the nation.
While many who see drug use as an illegal act already view the use of uncontrolled substances and diverted controlled substances as a crime, there are other ways the drug use feeds crime. Addiction experts and law enforcement officers agree that some drug-related crimes are committed by abusers who are seeking ways to fund their drug habits. They resort to assault, theft, armed robbery, larceny and other means to feed their addictions. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report from 2004 revealed that 17 percent of state prisoners and 18 percent of federal offenders confessed they were serving time for their current offense because they were trying to obtain money for drugs.
Of state offenders, 26.4 percent were using or stealing drugs to sell them and get money to maintain a drug habit. Another 30.3 percent committed a crime that involved the personal property of others in obtaining money for drugs. Surprisingly, only 9.8 percent of these offences were classified as violent.
In fact, the latest BOJS statistics available for 2007 show that nationally, of 14,831 homicides, only 3.9 percent were drug-related, occurring during narcotics felonies like drug trafficking and drug manufacturing. In Wisconsin, there were 140,513 property-related crimes in 2012. About 173 crimes involved murder and a little over 16,000 crimes were violent.
The Impact of Alcohol as a Drug
Although drug and alcohol statics are typically collected as separate data, there is ample reason to consider the effects of alcohol as a drug in the Wisconsin. The state has a high rate of alcohol consumption. CDC statistics have placed Wisconsin at No. 1 for binge drinking, the highest percentage of drinkers in a state population and driving under the influence. Although this may translate to an inordinate number of drinks for the average Wisconsinite, the CDC defines binge drinking as five drinks in a single sitting.
Additionally, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel poll revealed that the state has three times more taverns than the rest of the nation and Wisconsin alcohol consumers are not the best judges of their sobriety. The poll found that of 75 people who had been drinking and took a media-sponsored breathalyzer test, half underestimated their blood-alcohol levels. Most missed their levels of drunkenness by at least 35 percent, and many were still confident driving after taking this test.
Since the year 2000, Wisconsin alcohol-related car fatalities are higher than the United States as a whole. There seemed to be hope for a reversal of this trend in 2008 when Wisconsin’s average fell just below the national rate. However, the state currently has 1.5 more arrests of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and three times more arrests for violations of liquor laws.
Although these numbers make Wisconsin a high-profile state for alcohol abuse compared to national levels, it is important to note that Wisconsin has seen an annual decrease in alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths since 2006. However, alcohol-related deaths from sources other than automobile accidents have steadily increased. This creates an enormous health and financial impact on the state. Substance abuse treatment programs, prevention campaigns, treating alcohol-related diseases and the cost of processing alcohol- and drug-related criminal offenses have been a huge weight on the Wisconsin economy.
Abusers have been able to obtain other drugs in addition to OxyContin and heroin. Some of these are diverted controlled substances legally prescribed by physicians. These include Ritalin, Nubain, codeine combination products, Dilaudid, Vicodin (hydrocodone), the Benzodiazepines, and the anorectic drugs Phentermine and Phendimetrazine.
The drug threat in Wisconsin varies by county and geographical area. In eastern and central Wisconsin, powder and crack cocaine and heroin reign. Cocaine distribution has been primarily credited to Mexican drug organizations, who give the substance to Latino and African-American street gangs for distribution. Trafficking organizations move shipments through Chicago or to directly to Milwaukee.
Heroin dominates the Milwaukee and Racine areas. Drug officials also have become gravely concerned at the number of new users in the main metropolitan cities like Milwaukee. The increasingly pure state of heroin, sometimes as high as 95 percent, makes it easy to snort, rather than relying on injecting.
In rural counties in northwestern and southwestern Wisconsin, the most popular drug seems to be methamphetamine. Much of this is produced in and moved from the neighboring states of Minnesota and Iowa and imported through Mexican sources along the southwest border.
Since it has not been legalized, as in other states, marijuana is still considered the most widely used illegal drug in Wisconsin. Key targeted areas for marijuana distribution are Milwaukee and Madison. Sixty percent of prison inmates test positive for marijuana at the time they are entering correctional facilities. Drug experts also report that one-fourth of all people who use marijuana use other drugs, as well.
Among Wisconsin teens and young adults, club drugs get their category name because they are often used recreationally at concerts, parties, nightclubs and bars. When drug users say “club drugs” or “designer drugs,” they usually mean synthetic chemical drugs. These drugs have become increasingly popular among younger populations. Some of those drugs include: MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or Molly; LSD; Ketamine; GHB; GBL; and Benzodiazepines like Rohypnol and Diazapam, also known as Valium.
This group of drugs is psychoactive and some of this bear striking backgrounds. Ketamine, for example, is mostly used in veterinary practice and either snorted or injected directly into muscles. Rohypnol is not approved for use in the United States at all. It has been dubbed the “date rape” drug because it renders users unable to fight off a sexual assault. It is available in colorless, odorless, tasteless forms and is typically combined with alcoholic beverages. Club drugs can cause anterograde amnesia, sleep, coma, hallucinations, addition, impaired motor skills, high blood pressure, delirium, respiratory problems and death.
Why the Wisconsin Drug Problem May Exist
In addition to the special geography that Wisconsin enjoys, one that gives the drug influx many points of entry, there is the nature of drug seizure itself. When a drug kingpin is a capture by drug enforcement agents, it does not usually decrease drug traffic or drug-related violence. In fact, a kingpin arrest usually triggers cross-fighting among street distributors for drug territory. The fighting stops when a new kingpin has taken control.
This ongoing form of street government makes official law efforts seem, at times, almost meaningless. A highly publicized capture of a notorious drug distributor and gang leader is a siren for a new generation to emerge stronger to last longer. February 22, 2014, an arrest of Sinaloa cartel king Joaquin “El Chap” Guzman Loera, for example, does not dismantle the cartel. Even the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged this shortcoming. In a 2011 memo, the department stated, “no perceptible pattern correlates either a decrease or increase in drug seizures due to the removal of key (drug trafficking) personnel.” However, this strategy seems to be the best fight any government has against the epidemic of drugs.
In Wisconsin, the drug problems that plague the state appear to be continually bred by a culture of camaraderie and celebration at taverns and nightclubs. Drugs and alcohol seem to be a part of state identity, and there are rarely enough newcomers to the state who wield enough influence to change this tradition. Recurring festivals, sports events, and similar celebrations continue to provide the forum for the tradition to continue. In the eyes of both users and abusers, the public or private celebration is only as strong as its uncontrolled or diverted controlled substances.
Some might attribute the clutching to such a tradition to poverty levels. Public perceptions have long tried to connect income levels to drug abuse. The lower the income, the more likely a person may be to choose drugs for recreation, initially, and ultimately out of addiction. The poverty level in Wisconsin, however, betrays this logic. About 12.5 percent of the population lives below poverty level, compared to 14.9 percent nationally.
A healthy perspective considers that the average drug addict may no longer “look” like a drug addict. There may be no stereotypical clues to give him away to an onlooker. He may work a respectable 9-to-5 job and go home to two happy children. She may be the neighborhood mom who bakes cookies for all the kids and carpools them to soccer practice. The drug addict may be the straight-A student, the church deacon, the top sports recruit, or the happy chef at the regionally popular restaurant.
Detecting the activities of these neighbors and the retailers who sell to them almost requires the ability to peek behind closed doors, to see all things that happen in darkness. No one agency or individual has that far-reaching magic. The best that can be done is to crumble the problem a single incident and single source at a time.
The Road To A Sober Lifestyle
With so many options available, it is no surprise that someone looking to seek help for their problem with addiction can become overwhelmed and, thus, discouraged from getting treatment. Our licensed addiction counselors can help you find a treatment program at a Wisconsin drug rehab that meets the needs of your life and addiction. With guidance from our professional staff, you can learn to take control of your recovery and take back control of your life from addiction. The road to a sober lifestyle can begin at a Wisconsin drug rehab.