Opioids /

Congressional Reports Finds Opioid Crisis Cost the United States Almost $1.5 Trillion in 2020

Members of the Joint Economic Committee want increased federal funding for substance abuse treatment and data collection

The national opioid addiction and overdose epidemic had serious economic consequences in 2020 — costing the nation approximately $1.5 trillion.

A new report from the Congressional Joint Economic Committee stressed the severity of the crisis, including the number of deaths related to the use of opioids like illicit fentanyl.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 107,622 drug overdose deaths in 2021. Of these, 80,816 involved opioids – a 15% increase from 70,029 deaths in 2020.

Fentanyl alone caused 71,238 deaths in 2021.

“It’s equivalent to one 737 (jet) every day going down, no survivors. It’s a mind-boggling number of deaths,” Maryland Congressman David Trone, who serves on the JEC, told Reuters. He also co-founded and co-chairs the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force.

Trone said the opioid epidemic is “not only a health crisis” but also an “economic and national security” crisis.

“Over the last two years, the nation has rallied behind a common cause, investing trillions into research and treatment to cure the Coronavirus. Now, it’s time to do the same for the opioid epidemic,” Trone added in a statement released by the JEC. “With incalculable human cost and a staggering economic impact, this epidemic deserves urgent, collective action on a national scale.”

The JEC reported the opioid epidemic cost the nation $1.04 trillion in 2018 and $985 billion in 2019.

In its latest report, the committee noted that disruption in the health care system reduced “access to substance abuse treatment and exacerbat[ed] social and economic stress that can worsen addiction” and, in turn, caused a “spike in opioid use disorder cases and fatal overdoses during the pandemic [which] increased the economic toll of the opioid crisis in 2020.”

“In 2020, 2.7 million people over the age of 12 were reported to suffer from opioid use disorder, a significant increase compared to the 1.9 million cases in 2019,” per the report.

The committee’s analysis affirmed that white Americans “make up the majority of those who overdose from opioids” and that black Americans “have experienced a steep increase in the rate of fatal opioid overdoses over the last five years.”

The $1.5 trillion price tag is based on the calculation of the costs of health care, public safety, and productivity losses due to opioids as well as the decline in quality of life and lives lost because of fatal overdoses.

The committee has called on the Biden Administration to improve access and funding for treatment services in order to reduce addiction. Lawmakers also want the federal government to increase funding for the Overdose Data to Action program to better understand the patterns of overdose death in different regions of the country.

“This expanded approach to opioid data collection will help researchers and policymakers estimate the exact cost and impact of the opioid crisis and pave the path to better understand and resolve the epidemic,” the committee members stated.

“Without question, the greatest tragedies of the opioid epidemic continue to be the lives lost, the families and communities they’ve left behind and the many who are still struggling with addiction,” said JEC Chairman Don Beyer of Virginia. “But what the new JEC estimates make clear is just how disastrous this crisis has also been for our entire economy… As a nation, we are now less healthy, less economically competitive and less secure as a result of the opioid epidemic that continues to ravage our country.”

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