The roots of the crisis are found in the criminogenic pharmaceutical corporations and the dysfunctional U.S. economic system. More Americans die every year (about 60,000) as a result of the opioid crisis than the number who died in the Vietnam War. With $500 billion in annual costs, it also means that two years of the opioid crisis will roughly equal the direct costs of fighting the Vietnam War.
The opioid epidemic sweeping the U.S. is far costlier than once thought, with the economic impact of the crisis exceeding half a trillion dollars, according to a new report by White House economists.
The epidemic cost the American economy $504 billion in 2015, which was the equivalent of 2.8 percent of gross domestic product that year, according to the report by the Council of Economic Advisers, or CEA. The White House’s figures are more than six times larger than a previous study because it incorporates the value of lives lost to the epidemic.
The findings come less than a month after the Trump administration declared widespread opioid abuse a public health emergency while stopping short of freeing up federal disaster funds to tackle the problem.
A study released last year estimated the cost of the opioid crisis in 2013 at $79.9 billion, adjusted to 2015 dollars. The White House economists said prior research (see table) didn’t capture the full impact because it at times only measured health-care expenditures or earnings lost from those who die — which overlooks “other valuable activities in life besides work.”
The CEA also said it made adjustments to more accurately measure the number of opioid-related deaths, which often go underreported, and focused on illicit opioids as well as prescription drugs.
“This is the first but not the last publication CEA plans to issue on the opioid crisis,” according to the report. “A better understanding of the economic causes contributing to the crisis is crucial for evaluating the success of various interventions to combat it.”