The Real Cost of the Opioid Epidemic is More Than Previously Estimated

The Real Cost of the Opioid Epidemic is More Than Previously Estimated

What is the true economic cost of America’s opioid epidemic? According to the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), it’s significantly more than was previously thought. In a report released in November, 2017, the CEA estimates that the toll of the opioid crisis in 2015 was a staggering $504 billion, an amount that greatly exceeds estimates made by various other research groups. At 2.8 percent of the GDP, the amount is also six times larger than the previously accepted estimate.

“The opioid drug problem has reached crisis levels in the United States—in 2015, over 33,000 Americans died of a drug overdose involving opioids,” writes the CEA in the report. “CEA finds that previous estimates of the economic cost of the opioid crisis greatly understate it by undervaluing the most important component of the loss—fatalities resulting from overdoses.”

The CEA arrived at the $504 billion amount by factoring in a combination of statistical models, as well as the value of the lives that have been lost as a result of opioid-related overdoses (the latter factor being one that previous studies have failed to properly consider). The economic loss of the 33,000 opioid deaths in 2015 was determined to be between $221 billion and $431 billon. This number was then combined with the assessed cost of the opioid epidemic in terms of treating patients, lost productivity, and criminal justice, an amount that came out to a $72 billion loss.

There were 2.4 million individuals with a documented opioid addiction in 2015. At Illinois Pain Institute, we’re dedicated to diagnosing and treating the source of pain, rather than just masking pain with opiates. As more medical professionals start to do the same, we hope that the epidemic – and it’s personal and economic toll – will decrease.