Opioid Crisis Cost The US $1 Trillion Since 2001, And It’s Getting Worse

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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The opioid crisis cost the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion from 2001 to 2017 and is expected to cost an additional $500 billion by 2020, according to Altarum, a nonprofit health research and consulting institute.

The annual cost of the crisis ballooned from $29.1 billion in 2001 to roughly $115 billion in 2017. Altarum expects the cost to continue to soar to $500 billion in 2020 from opioid misuse, abuse and deaths, the analysis released Tuesday states.

Individuals, in addition to the direct effects of opioid abuse, experience the cost in lost wages. Every person who dies from opioids abuse represents an estimated $800,000 loss to the economy. The private sector incurs the cost in the form of lost employees and productivity.

Opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016–the highest year on record. Roughly 40 percent of those deaths stem from an opioid prescription. Opioid deaths comprised roughly 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016. To put that figure in context, that is more lives than annually lost to breast cancer.

Older Americans ages 55 to 64 are experiencing the largest increase in opioid deaths. The rate of death for this group grew exponentially from 1999-2016, growing six-fold.

Experts say the opioid crisis is contributing to decreased life expectancy in the nation. For the first time since 1962, life expectancy in the U.S. fell for the second consecutive year.

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