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Drug problems large, help programs growing


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) - The problems with drugs continue to grow, and so do the numbers of people seeking help to break the addiction. Earlier this year, the Push Back Against Drugs educational efforts began in Marathon County to not only reach out to help people trying to break the addiction, but to educate people and try to prevent that first experimentation with drugs.

Melissa Dotter is with the county’s health department and the Push Back campaign. She says more people are coming to them for help or to offer their help. “We’re definitely seeing an increase of people that maybe haven’t been involved in the past get involved with things like our community coalition, the AODA partnership. We’ve seen an increase in talking with law enforcement, we’ve seen an increase with calls to the local tip lines, we’ve seen an increase in people that are working with our different neighborhood groups here. Just in the City of Wausau for example, we’ve actually worked with a couple of volunteers and gone out and done door-to-door conversations with some of those Push Back materials.”

Dotter says they’ve taken the Push Back Against Drugs message to several businesses, government groups, and community organizations. “We’ve had a number of different organizations and groups contacting us, wanting presentations on this information, and we’re actually looked at across the state as a leader when it comes to getting the community engaged through our Pushback campaign.”

Heroin and other opiates have become one of the leading drug problems over the past few years. Wausau Health Services is one outpatient clinic that helps patients manage withdrawal symptoms with controlled doses of other drugs such as methadone. Dotter says many people don’t understand treating a drug problem with another drug, but there is a good reason for this. “While we may be replacing a drug with a drug, that drug is what’s keeping them at a level, where they feel normal, they can be productive in society because when you go through withdrawal from opiates, it’s like the worst flu you ever had, depression kicks in, everything is just down, and you can’t physically be productive. For people that are getting that treatment, it’s not getting them high by any means. It’s getting them to a level where they can be functioning people in society.”

Deb Piskoty is the Director at Wausau Health Services. She says methadone is only one of the three common medications used to manage withdrawal symptoms. “We also use two other medications. One is called suboxone, and the other is called subutex, both wonderful medications and approximately one-third of our patients are on those medications. It’s kind of showing a shift in terms of treatments, and both are very good.”

If you or a friend or family member is seeking help with an addiction, you can contact the Marathon County Health Department’s Drug Free Communities programs at 715-261-1962 or the United Way First Call number 2-1-1. The contact number for Wausau Health Services is 800-610-4673.