The opioid epidemic does more than just ruin people’s lives, it’s taking a toll on our country’s economy. New analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) reveals that the crisis cost the United States approximately $504 billion in 2015, which is more than six times higher than studies from previous years.
This figure accounts for roughly 2.8 percent of gross domestic product. Since it began in 1999, the number of deaths from overdoses has risen sharply. Most recently, the opioid crisis was declared a national public health emergency by President Donald Trump.
Released Monday, the report was needed because “in assessing the benefits of fiscal and regulatory policies that limit opioid abuse in the United States, it is important to understand the costs associated with the epidemic that policies might mitigate,” according to the CEA.
In 2015, there were more than 33,000 reported opioid-involved overdose deaths, but because fatalities are underreported, the council stated that the number is probably closer to around 41,000 deaths.
The CEA’s analysis on the economic cost is much higher than previous studies from different years. According to a report in The Hill, this is because it adjusted for underreporting of fatalities. In addition, previous studies only took into account the cost of prescription painkillers, but the CEA’s analysis also included illicit opioids, like heroin.
This is the council’s first report on the opioid crisis, and it plans to issue more.
Policymakers and advocates are searching for effective ways to curb the crisis. The president’s commission to address the opioid epidemic recently issued its final report. In it, they’ve made more than 50 recommendations — from more drug courts to a national media blitz.
Democratic lawmakers are calling for a substantial infusion of federal funds, which they think will help solve the problem. They were reportedly disappointed that the emergency declaration didn’t come with millions of dollars or a funding request to Congress.