Every day in the United States, 130 people die from opioid overdoses. To date, the opioid epidemic, as it has been termed, has claimed the lives of more than 420,000 people and affected the lives of many more. Because the drugs involved—codeine, oxycodone, and fentanyl, among others—are physically addictive, anyone can become dependent and everyone is at risk. The epidemic is even affecting our nation’s newborns, with neonatal abstinence syndrome increasing five-fold between 2004 and 2014.
While the human cost of the opioid epidemic is undeniably tragic, its impact is felt economically as well. The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates costs associated with overdoses, medical care, addiction treatment, lost productivity, criminal justice expenditures, and family support services at $78.5 billion per year. Aligned with that figure, the non-profit health research and consulting organization Altarum has projected opioid-related costs, in the aggregate, to reach $1.5 trillion by 2020.