Target 2 Investigates: 'Astounding' number of pills collected in Wisconsin

WISCONSIN (WBAY) - Wisconsin is fighting an addiction and opioid epidemic.

"There are just too many pills and a lot of ways we've become a pill nation, unfortunately," says Bob Bell, Drug Enforcement Administration. He's the assistant special agent in charge in Milwaukee.

In effort to keep unused and unwanted pills out of the wrong hands, thousands of people across the state took part in last Saturday's National Drug Take Back Event.

Target 2 Investigates has reported extensively on the opioid crisis in our area for years. For the first time, we've been given a look behind the curtain at the state's single-largest effort to attack drug abuse.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice gave Target 2 Investigates exclusive access to agents as they sorted the pills and medications collected during the drug take back event.

We were given permission to show the process, but asked not to identify drug agents or the location of the sorting.


On Oct. 30, undercover local, state, and federal drug agents formed an assembly line. Their mission: sort, weigh, and pack up unused pills and medications.

One by one, trucks filled with boxes arrive. Inside each box is about 50 pounds of pills, along with the occasional bottle or packaging.

The boxes are stacked onto pallets. The pallets end up weighing about 1,000 pounds. This is just from Southeast Wisconsin and the Madison area.

A truck will medication collected from 22 counties in Northeast Wisconsin arrives. It contains 12,000 pounds, or six tons, of medication.

Some of the pills were collected during the one-day take back event. Some of the pills were collected from prescription drug drop boxes at police departments in our area.

Investigators says it is an "astounding" amount of pills.

"Positive steps are being taken, but today, a day like this, we'll never know how many lives are saved or how many people, children, friends, family members did not develop a problem, just because these substances are not laying around the medicine cabinets or around the house," Bell says.

Target 2 dug up 2017 stats and found the number of prescriptions being written or stolen in Wisconsin reaches into the millions.

Tuesday on Action 2 News at 10: Sarah Thomsen breaks down those stats and shows us the initiatives underway that specifically target pain and medication for teens.

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