A Dose of Reality for Siblings and Friends

In Wisconsin, more people die from prescription painkiller overdoses than all other drugs. More than 70% of people who abuse prescription painkillers get them through friends or relatives. In recent years, the rate of prescription painkiller overdoses has increased 260% among Wisconsin’s young people ages 12-25.

When your sibling/friend starts acting withdrawn, depressed, hostile or fatigued for no apparent reason, you may not suspect at first that anything is wrong. But many of these normal behaviors can also be signs of a drug-related problem.

Your intuition will usually pick up on other signs that could mean your sibling/friend is at risk. The relationship between siblings and friends that are characterized by mutual attachment, nurturance, and lack of conflict can help to protect against substance abuse (Brook and Brook, 1992).

Is your sibling or friend at risk?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumas experienced in childhood that cause toxic stress in the body. This stress can change brain chemistry, shape educational outcomes, and influence a person’s future health and well-being. It can also make you more susceptible to risky behavior and substance abuse.

In Wisconsin, almost 21.2% of children have experienced at least one ACE, and those who reported five or more ACEs were three times more likely to misuse prescription pain medication.

If your sibling or friend has experienced any of the following ACEs, you may be at risk for opioid abuse:

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Physical or emotional neglect
  • Mental illness of a household member
  • Alcoholism or illegal drug use of a household member
  • Divorce or separation of a parent
  • Domestic violence towards a parent
  • Incarceration of a household member

If you Suspect Your Sibling or Friend is at Risk

  • Understand the risk factors for abuse for painkillers.
  • Educate yourself about addiction, treatment, and recovery.
  • Create boundaries for yourself. You may find yourself in situations where you feel the need to cover for your sibling/friend. Before responding to a request, ask yourself whether your actions are helping your sibling/friend.
  • Be honest with yourself and your sibling/friend. Encourage them to seek help to get the treatment that they need.
  • Let your sibling/friend know that you will stand by them and offer support if he/she needs it.
  • Be open with parents and loved ones who may not always be aware or sensitive to the severity of prescription painkiller abuse.


Get the facts on the dangers of prescription painkiller abuse.

Take the pledge to steer clear of prescription painkillers.

Find out where there’s a Drug Take Back location near you.

Check out our videos about prescription painkillers.

Visit Trauma Informed Care Wisconsin to learn more about Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Visit Your Choice To Live for information about substance abuse programs and presentations.


Addiction affects people from all walks of life.

Straight Forward: The Truth About Addiction is a WisconsinEye documentary featuring in depth interviews with young Wisconsinites fighting to recover their lives and futures from opioid addictions.