New Study Says Opioid Use has Cost $1 Trillion Since 2001

A nonprofit reports that its study of CDC mortality data reveals the economic cost of the opioid epidemic since 2001 is $1 trillion.

According to Altarum’s Center for Value and Health Care, lost earnings and productivity, as well as increased medical expenses led to the startlingly high cost of opioid use in the United States since 2001.

“The costs of the opioid crisis are borne by individuals in the form of lost wages; the private sector in lost productivity and health care costs; and federal, state and local governments in lost tax revenue and additional spending on health care, social services, education and criminal justice,” notes the report.

The nonprofit states that costs are projected to mount further, likely reaching another $500 billion in the next three years.

The cost of opioid use also includes lost tax revenue to all levels of government; however, the greatest cost, according to the report, are the lost years of productivity of those who become addicted to the powerful pain killers. Deaths from opioid overdoses are most likely to occur in people aged 30 to 40 – prime earning years, according to the nonprofit.

Sadly, those who are addicted to opioids are becoming younger as the powerful drugs are more commonly laced with street drugs, like heroin.

Opioid use in the past two decades has also resulted in increased health care costs, including emergency room visits, ambulances, and the high cost of overdose reversal medications. The nonprofit estimates health care costs increased to more than $215 billion since 2001.

The researchers noted that opioid use takes more than an economic toll.

“This analysis is concerned with the economic cost of the opioid crisis, but the human cost—the emotional toll on individuals with a use disorder, and that on their families and communities is substantial and vitally important to any complete analysis of the crisis,” states the report. “We are not able to quantify those additional costs in our analysis due to the inherent difficulty of estimating them.

Costs are expected to continue to increase unless there is an adequate national response to opioid use, says the nonprofit. Currently, a $6 billion proposal for a two-year response is being considered by Congress; however, health care programs are also being cut.

opioidsAltarum says that their study shows that costs associated with opioid use doubled from 2011 to 2016.

Without a sustained and comprehensive effort to address the problem of opioid use, the nonprofit warns that costs will continue to rise at an exponential rate.

The researchers made recommendations regarding prevention, treatment, and recovery they say will help stem the rising costs associated with opioid use.

While the federal government grapples with its response to opioid use, local governments and tribes have begun taking drug makers to court alleging they aggressively marketed the powerful pain medications, but failed to account for the risks of addiction.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by opioid use, contact the attorneys at McDonald Worley to help evaluate whether you have a legal claim.


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