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

Update: On September 18, 2018 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded over $1 billion in opioid-specific grants to help combat the crisis ravaging our country. The awards support HHS's Five-Point Opioid Strategy, which was launched last year and enhanced the same week as this announcement. New data unveiled recently by HHS suggests that efforts are now yielding progress at the national level.

At the bottom of this article you will find the Department of Health and Human Services video explaining the Five-Poin Strategy to Combat Opioid Crisis.


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. More than 62,000 Americans are believed to have fatally overdosed from opioids in 2017.

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.

Researchers for Altarum say the growth in costs between 2011 and 2016 was double the rate of the previous five years, and is projected to keep rising steeply unless there's a comprehensive and sustained national response. 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 (All figures in the analysis are based on 2016 U.S. dollars):

  • 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.

-- Logan


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