The Devastating Cost of Drug and Alcohol Use

National News
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From the devastating impact of crime on families and cities, lost productivity, costs to employers and the economy, to staggering health care costs raising premiums and taxes, the impact of addiction in America amounts to $1.45 trillion dollars each year, a study newly released by Recovery Centers of America (RCA) shows.

The whopping $1.45 trillion dollars in costs from addiction includes $578 billion in economic loss and $874 billion in societal harm through quality of life adjustments and premature loss of life, according to a study for RCA conducted by Quantified Ventures utilizing data from over fifty sources. One of the findings in the study – if all individuals who suffered from addiction to drugs and alcohol in the United States were provided treatment, there would be a $142 billion economic gain to society.

“As treatment centers, law enforcement, medical providers, policymakers, and advocacy groups work together to craft solutions for a drug and alcohol epidemic where 160,000 of our fellow citizens lost their lives in 2017, data is needed to create legislative and regulatory solutions to problems such as ensuring that substance use disorder treatment is covered comprehensively by managed care organizations and is accessible to all. With over a trillion dollars at stake, the study provides strong evidence that solving the American addiction crisis benefits everyone from an economic standpoint in addition to saving the lives of so many of our loved ones,” said Recovery Centers of America Chief Scientific Officer Deni Carise, PhD.

According to the RCA report, the cost of crime resulting from addiction totaled over $96 million. The bulk of those costs were for law enforcement and the cost of incarcerations.

Health costs make up 15% of the costs associated with substance abuse, totaling $84 billion in economic loss. The largest drivers for health care were the costs associated with hospitals and healthcare treatment, totaling nearly 78% of all health-related costs.

Lost productivity makes up the largest percentage of the direct and indirect costs of addiction, at 23% of the trillion-dollar figure. The vast majority of the $338 billion in costs associated with lost productivity are due to diminished earnings potential and premature death.

Finally, at over $900 billion, the study demonstrates that intangibles cost over 1.5 times more than the other categories in the study. This is primarily due to the Value of Statistical Life calculated at $9.4 million per life with 94,000 lives lost to drug and alcohol use in 2015.

Dr. Carise further explained that, while the study was completed in 2017 and covers the cost of drug and alcohol addiction in the U.S. in 2016, “the breakdown of specific areas of harm provides crucial evidence now on how addiction is wreaking havoc on our society and our economy. Moreover, the addiction epidemic has only worsened in the years since the study was completed so the cost is likely higher.”

Dr. Carise added that “Drug and alcohol use is killing more and more Americans every year, and, instead of judging people and stigmatizing treatment of individuals that are suffering and dying from substance use disorders, we need to end the stigma and partner up as a nation to solve the problem.”

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