White House report: Cost of opioid crisis over $500B

By Allen Cone  |  Nov. 20, 2017 at 2:44 PM
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Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The cost of the opioid epidemic in the United States was about $504 billion -- and 41,000 deaths -- two years ago, which was higher than previously thought, according to an analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

The crisis' impact is roughly 3 percent of the gross domestic product and six times higher than the $78.5 billion estimate by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the report released Monday said.

"The opioid drug problem has reached crisis levels in the United States," the 12-page report, The Underestimated Cost of the Opioid Crisis, said.

Last month, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency.

"The crisis has worsened in recent years, with an increasing role played by heroin abuse, and evidence suggests that fatality statistics understate the number of opioid-related deaths," the CEA report said.

The group said previous estimates of the economic cost "greatly understate it by undervaluing the most important component of the loss -- fatalities resulting from overdoses."

Monday's report estimated the cost using "conventional economic estimates for valuing life" routinely used by U.S. federal agencies.

"It also adjusts for underreporting of opioids in overdose deaths, includes heroin-related fatalities and incorporates nonfatal costs of opioid misuse."

Previous estimates only accounted for the monetary cost of prescription painkillers.

The CEA's death estimate is 8,000 more the 33,000 opioid deaths and 50,000 total overdoses reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Opioid-involved overdose deaths doubled over the last 10 years and has quadrupled in the past 16 years

Nearly 2.5 million Americans have an opioid-use disorder, the Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said last year -- and includes abusers of painkillers and other opioid-based substances.

Earlier this month, the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis made 57 recommendations to fight the crisis -- including drug courts and aid to states to relieve administrative burdens.

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