Economic Toll Of Opioid Crisis In U.S. Exceeded $1 Trillion Since 2001

The cost of the opioid epidemic in the United States has climbed to an estimated $1 trillion since 2001, and costs related to the crisis are increasing at an accelerating rate, according to a study released by Altarum, a not-for-profit health research and consulting institute.

The annual cost of the opioid crisis increased from $29.1 billion in 2001 to an estimated $115 billion in 2017.  Even more eye-opening the study suggests the cost of opioid misuse, substance use disorders, and premature mortality will exceed $500 billion over the next 3 years if concerted and sustained action to address the crisis is not taken and current use and mortality rates persist. The report also indicates that health care expenses associated with the crisis have been substantial, due in large part to emergency department visits, ambulance costs, and the use of naloxone. Perhaps preventive medicine and biomedical research are the key drivers in helping improve lifestyle patterns while relieving this long-term economic problem.

As part of its study, Altarum suggested several recommendations for policymakers, including:

  • Educating clinicians on the appropriate use of opioids and exploring opioid alternatives to treat pain.
  • Monitoring practitioners for high opioid prescribing patterns.
  • Encouraging benefit managers to explore drug tiers that create financial barriers to accessing opioids.
  • Facilitating access to local support services that aid in recovery.

Congress is considering spending $6 billion over the next two years to address the national crisis. Although President Trump is proposing $13 billion in new spending on opioids, cuts in other health care programs like Medicaid will partially offset this proposal. All figures in the analysis are based on 2016 U.S. dollars.

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