Total Cost of The American Opioid Epidemic

opioid epidemicIs it possible to quantify the true impact of the American opioid epidemic? The unprecedented health crisis has left people in the public and private sector scrambling to find desperately needed solutions. With each day that passes—more Americans become dependent on opioids—more people lose their lives to overdose. And while efforts to curb the scourge of opioid addiction in the U.S. have had some effect, without a paradigm shift in thinking regarding prescription opioids—the problem will only continue to disrupt the country. While it is easy for us to look at the staggering death toll to stress the seriousness of the issue, it is important that we all take stock of the societal costs of opioid addiction. With over 2 million Americans living with an opioid use disorder and over 70 people paying the ultimate price for their addiction every day, there is an exponentially greater number of family members who have been affected by the epidemic. It may be impossible to compute the amount of heartache and pain that family members will endure for years, especially if they lost someone to an overdose.

The Cost Of An Epidemic

As you might imagine, there is a heavy price tag attached to the opioid epidemic. The bulk of the cost, naturally, is tied to the burden put on the health care system—whether it be to cover insurance claims for hospitalizations or treatments, or keeping babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) stable—the overall cost of the opioid scourge is daunting to think about. In fact, new research estimates that the epidemic cost is $78.5 billion annually, Newswise reports. Of that estimate, health care accounts for about one-third (over $28 billion) of the total cost. The findings will be published in next month's issue of Medical Journal. Even when opioid use disorder does not result in hospitalization or loss of life from overdose ($21.5 billion), there are other costs to consider as well. Those who are addicted to opioids are often too sick to get to work or hold down a job. The researchers found that loss of productivity accounts for about $20 billion, according to the article. Almost two-thirds of the total economic cost could be attributed to:
  • Health Care
  • Addiction Treatment
  • Lost Productivity
"The costs that we can identify, however, do help increase our understanding of the impact of the epidemic," the researchers conclude. "These estimates can assist decision makers in understanding the magnitude of adverse health outcomes associated with prescription opioid use such as overdose, abuse, and dependence."

Worth The Cost Of Treatment

It is worth pointing out that of the more than $28 billion spent on health care, $26 billion was covered by insurance companies, the article reports. It was not that long ago that it was extremely difficult to get insurance companies to cover mental health disorder treatment, i.e. extended stays at addiction treatment facilities. While there is still a lot more that insurance companies can do to help people with addiction issues, it is good to see that insurance companies are finally insuring people with a history of addiction and paying for some of the bill to help them find recovery. Research overwhelmingly supports addiction recovery services as being the best weapon against the opioid epidemic. Prescription opioids and heroin are extremely difficult to withdraw from and the chance of relapse is especially high among opioid addicts; while those who go to a substance use disorder treatment center have the best chance of achieving sustained recovery in the long run. If you or a loved one is battling opioid addiction, please contact PACE Recovery Center to begin the journey of recovery.

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