Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that U.S. overdose deaths fell last year for the first time since 1999, 68,557 people still died. The federal government has been recording the number of deaths throughout the U.S. opioid crisis and at least 400,000 Americans have died since 2000. While the human side of the crisis has been well documented, it has proven more difficult to estimate its financial cost.
The huge death toll has has an adverse impact on many sectors of the economy and several studies have attempted to gauge that impact with varying results. A new analysis has now been released by the Society of Actuaries which found that the collective cost of factors such as healthcare, mortality and lost productivity have added up to hundreds of billions of dollars over the past four years.
The report estimated that between 2015 and 2018, the crisis cost the U.S. $631 billion (a midpoint estimate). $253 billion of that can be attributed to mortality costs, $205 billion to healthcare costs and $96 billion to lost productivity. Criminal Justice costs came in at an estimated $39 billion with child/family assistance and education adding up to $34 and $5 billion respectively.
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Over the past four years, an estimated $186 billion (29 percent) of the total economic burden of the crisis was borne by federal, state and local governments while the remainder was borne by the private sector and individuals. In 2017, the total cost was estimated at $171 billon and that increased to $179 billion in 2018. The projected midpoint cost for 2019 currently stands at $188 billion.