Cocaine is not a drug we often hear about these days, but it’s impacting more families every day, especially in Milwaukee County where deaths are on the rise.
From the first time Michael Sauter tried cocaine at 18 years old, he was addicted.
“I could stay up longer than everybody else. I could continue my own irrational behavior longer, and it fueled my own fire,” he said.
Over time, it caught up with him and destroyed his life.
“There was no turning the clock back,” Sauter said. “If I would stop or if a jail or institution would intervene, as soon as I picked up again, it would be off to the races.”
The drug has been around for decades, but according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, more people are dying from it.
In 2012, there were 34 cocaine-related deaths.
Only six years later, in 2018, that number spiked to 163.
Now, just a few months into the new year, there’s already been 19.
Alderman Michael Murphy is the co-chair of the City-County Heroin, Opioid, Cocaine Task Force that’s working to fight addiction and overdoses in the area.
“These are not just statistics. These are fathers, sons, mothers and daughters who are dying needlessly,” Murphy said.
“These are not just statistics. These are fathers, sons, mothers and daughters who are dying needlessly.” — Alderman Michael Murphy
He said the increase is probably a result of dealers mixing Fentanyl with cocaine without users’ knowledge.
“Fentanyl is 1,000 times more powerful than morphine, and so you know you have two different types of drugs in the mixture and a deadly combination,” Murphy said.
Tiffinie Cobb of the Milwaukee Health Department said reducing the numbers comes down to education and access to quality treatment.
“Making people aware of drugs at an early age and then just a self-care aspect,” she said.
For Sauter, it wasn’t until 1999 that he got sober of cocaine, and then found support through Cocaine Anonymous.
“I believed for a long, long time that there was no possible way I was going to be able to get clean and sober. I was convinced I was going to die,” he said.
Now he wants others to know they can do the same.
“It’s all about keeping people alive,” Sauter said.
Help is out there. Click here for resources in Milwaukee and check out pages 78-105.