In its report, The Underestimated Cost of the Opioid Crisis, the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) has estimated that the opioid drug epidemic cost the country $504 billion in 2015—in terms of lost lives, lost productivity, health care, treatment, criminal justice and other expenses. The cost is more than six times larger than the previous study because it includes the value of lives lost to the epidemic and is equal to 2.8 percent of GDP according to the report.
Altarum, a nonprofit research and consulting institute dedicated to improving health and health care, arrived at a cost estimate of $95 billion for 2016 using a different methodology than the CEA. According to Altarum, the CEA report’s cost estimate is higher than theirs and previous estimates primarily due to the CEA’ use of the “value of a statistical life,” which seeks to place a cost on the intangible value of a life, above and beyond lost earnings.
When the President’s Opioid Commission issued its Final Report on November 1, 2017, it didn’t put a price tag on addressing the opioid and drug crisis in the country. Time magazine’s Money asked five experts for their estimates and all had varied estimates. According to one expert, “This is a chronic disease that has been around for a millennium, but Washington is acting as if there should be an acute solution, there is not.”