By Shereen Siewert, Wausau Pilot & Review

Information provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services

State health officials on Tuesday issued a formal alert after Marathon County saw three reported opioid overdoses in a six-day span, an atypical number for the area.

The overdoses were reported at Marathon County emergency departments between March 6 and March 12, officials said.

Increased opioid drug overdose activity in this area is defined as a greater number of opioid drug overdoses than would otherwise be expected within a seven-day period, based on the most recent opioid overdose activity, officials said.

The Marathon County Health Department is urging residents to dispose of unwanted or unused opioid medication at area drop boxes. According to the National Survey on Drug Abuse & Health, 70% of those 12 years and older who abuse non-medical painkillers are obtained through a friend or relative, both legally and illegally. See a list of locations below and resources from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

What are opioids?

Opioids are a class of legal and illegal drugs that produce a pleasurable effect on the brain and body, although the effect is different for each person who uses opioids. Opioids are used in many ways. A health care professional may prescribe them as part of a treatment plan following an injury or surgery. Opioids also may be used in non medical ways. Some people may use opioids to cope with painful emotions, trauma, or other life experiences.

  • Prescription pain relievers: Prescription opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone that relieve pain by changing the way the brain and body feel pain. They don’t cure the pain, but they help a person manage it.
  • Fentanyl: There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illegally manufactured fentanyl. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is sold for its heroin-like effect. 
  • Heroin: Heroin is an illegal opioid. There are no medical uses for heroin. Heroin can be found in both pure form and laced with other drugs.

All types of opioids are addictive. The brain and body develop a tolerance to opioids very quickly, meaning more amounts are needed to feel the same effect. This may rapidly become dependence, meaning that not taking opioids may cause discomfort because opioids are no longer in the brain and body. This leads some people to crave opioids more and more, a cycle that can lead to an opioid use disorder. An opioid use disorder occurs when opioid use interferes with daily life. This may include challenges at home, at work, at school, or in relationships. Anyone who uses opioids can develop an opioid use disorder. It is a chronic disease that can be managed. Taking too many opioids at one time can cause a person to stop breathing and die. 

What are the common signs of an opioid use disorder?

  • Unexplained changes in behavior, such as attitude, appetite, mood swings, sleep patterns, and irritability.
  • Sudden changes in activities, such as friends or social activities or sudden shifts in jobs or hobbies.
  • Engaging in secretive behaviors, such as hiding whereabouts or new friends.

Drop-box locations:

Athens Police Department: 221 Caroline Street Athens, WI M – F 7:30 am – 4:00 pm

Colby/Abbortsford Police Department: 12 W Spruce Street Abbotsford, WI. If traveling a long distance, it is suggested you call 715-223-4944 first.                     M – F 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.  No holiday drop-off.

Edgar Police Department: 224 S 3rd Ave Edgar, WI M & W 8:15 am – 7:00 pm, T, TH, & F 8:15 am – 4:45 pm

Everest Metro Police Department: 5303 Mesker St. Weston, WI.  M – F 8:00 am – 5:00 pm public lobby area.   No holiday drop-off.

Kronenwetter Police Department: 1582 Kronenwetter Dr. Kronenwetter, WI.   24/7, 365 days a year in public entrance area.

Mosinee Police Department: 225 Main St Mosinee, WI M – F 8:00 am – 4:30 pm

Rothschild Police Department: 211 Grand Ave. Rothschild, WI.  Open 24/7, 365 days a year in public entrance area.

Stratford Police Department: 265 N 3rd Ave Stratford, WI M – F 8:00 am – 4:30 pm

Wausau Police Department: 515 Grand Ave. Wausau, WI.   M – F 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. Drop slot in public lobby area.  No holiday drop-off.

Village of Marathon City Police Department: 311 Walnut Street, Marathon, WI. Mon-Fri, 7am – 4pm in lobby. No holiday drop off.

Spencer Police Department: 105 S Park Street, Spencer, WI. M – F 8:00 am – 5:00 pm in lobby. No holiday drop off.