Opioid overdoses up more than 30% in Madison since start of COVID-19 pandemic

MADISON, Wis. — Opioid overdoses in Madison have jumped 36% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

From January to June, the Madison Police Department received 139 overdose calls, compared to 102 during the same time in 2019. According to a news release from UW Health, there have been 20 opioid-related deaths in Madison so far this year. Officials said that number is on pace to surpass 2019’s total of 29 opioid-related deaths.

Dr. Michael Miller, a faculty member in the addiction medicine fellowship program of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said the rise in overdoses has been overshadowed by the pandemic.

“Sadly, this is a perfect storm fueled by job loss and economic hardship, social isolation and ever-stronger available opioid-based illicit drugs,” Miller said.

Miller said new and stronger drugs like the synthetic opioid Isotonitazene or “Iso,” in addition to fentanyl, have likely contributed to the rise in overdoses. Miller said social isolation has also made it more difficult for people to access treatment programs.