Cost of U.S. opioid epidemic since 2001 is $1 trillion and climbing

A new report from the nonprofit group Altarum says the opioid epidemic has cost the United States more than $1 trillion since 2001. That total may increase another $500 million over the next 3 years, the authors said.

A new report from the nonprofit group Altarum says the opioid epidemic has cost the United States more than $1 trillion since 2001. That total may increase another $500 million over the next 3 years, the authors said. Researchers examined CDC mortality data through June 2017 and found that the biggest financial cost of the opioid epidemic is in lost earnings and productivity losses to employers. Additionally, early deaths and substance abuse disorders affect local, state, and federal government in terms of lost tax revenue. According to Corey Rhyan, a senior research analyst with Altarum, one reason why these costs are increasing is that more young people are being affected as the epidemic moves from prescription opioids to illicit ones such as heroin. "The average age at which opioid deaths are occurring—you're looking at something in the late 30s or early 40s," Rhyan says. "As a result, you're looking at people that are in the prime of the productive years of their lives." 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.