The total economic burden of opioid abuse was estimated at $78.5 billion in 2013, according to research published in Medical Care and referenced in Science Daily . Health care accounts for about one-third of costs attributable to the prescription opioid epidemic, while one-fourth of costs are borne by the public sector, according to the analysis.
The researchers used data from a wide range of sources to estimate “monetized burden” of prescription opioid overdose, abuse, and dependence in the United States. Healthcare costs, costs related to lost productivity, and costs to the criminal justice system were included in the analysis.
Total spending for health care and substance abuse treatment was more than $28 billion, most of which ($26 billion) was covered by insurance.
Overall, nearly one-fourth of the aggregate economic burden was funded by public sources. That included costs funded by public insurance (i.e., Medicaid, Medicare, and veterans’ programs) and other government sources for substance abuse treatment.
Recent reductions in opioid prescriptions, reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), may indicate improvements in opioid addiction costs and societal burdens. However, the amount of prescribed opioids in 2015 is approximately three times higher than the amount in 1999. Half of U.S. counties have seen a decrease in the amount of opioids prescribed from 2010-2015, but the highest prescribing counties still prescribe six times more than the amounts of the lowest prescribing counties, CDC says.