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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


In 2021, the latest full year of final data available, there were 1,427 deaths in Wisconsin related to opioids, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported.

Provisional department data show there were 1,358 opioid overdose or poisoning deaths in 2022.

Overdoses occur when someone takes too much of a recommended amount of a substance, such as a prescription drug. Poisoning more accurately describes a scenario in which someone unknowingly ingests fentanyl while believing they are taking a legitimate opioid.

Synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl, cause the vast majority of Wisconsin opioid deaths, according to the health department.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin cited the 2021 statistic in an Aug. 14 interview.

Baldwin co-sponsored a bipartisan bill introduced in April that aims to reduce fentanyl trafficking by imposing sanctions on transnational criminal organizations.

No votes have been taken on the bill, but in June it was placed on the Senate’s legislative calendar.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Wisconsin Department Of Health Services: Dose of Reality: Opioids Data

Wisconsin Watch: Fentanyl in Wisconsin: Drug killing over 1,000 people each year

Wisconsin Department Of Health Services: Public Health Advisory: Fentanyl Increasingly Present in Overdose Deaths in Wisconsin

Spreaker: Interview- Senator Tammy Baldwin (4:00)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin: Baldwin Joins Bipartisan Bill to Target Fentanyl Supply Chain

U.S. Congress: S.1271 – FEND Off Fentanyl Act

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Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for PolitiFact and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.