An Expensive Epidemic; What the Opioid Issue Really Costs Our Nation

Stacks of money and opioids - closeup shot.

When we hear of opioids, we know that this is a problem that affects millions of Americans and their families. We know it has gotten totally out of control. We know that hundreds of thousands have lost their lives or have suffered immensely. We know that this problem continues to grow every year, with no sign or indication of it reducing. We know it will take a lot of work to reverse the crisis. What we often do not know however is the sheer cost of the opioid epidemic. We often don’t recognize the financial strain this problem has, not only on a town-by-town or state-by-state level but on a federal level too.

How Addiction Hurts the Economy

While every state has been negatively affected by the spread of opioid addiction, not all states are affected in the same way. Some states are hit harder than others are. Some geographic locations experience slight increases in opioid misuse, others are completely overwhelmed by opioid problems. It just depends on the area.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and New Hampshire have experienced the worst surge in opioid misuse, problems which have been both devastating for those states and extremely expensive for them too.

A new study by the White House Council of Economic Advisors has been able to analyze the full width and breadth of economic destruction that opioids cause the nation. According to their research, the opioid epidemic cost the nation five-hundred and four billion dollars in 2016, a new highest-ever figure. These costs come from mortality costs, health expenses, lost productivity, and a reduced workforce. Other costs come from criminal justice expenses, the statistical value of the lives lost, costs of damaged and stolen property, collateral damage, and legal costs. There is also the costs of prisons which house hundreds of thousands of addicts, and the costs of rehabilitation centers too.

Areas Most Affected

Dollar bills inside prescription canes

Here's a look at the areas most economically affected by the opioid addiction epidemic that is sweeping the nation. In West Virginia, opioid abuse costs the state $4,378 per resident, every year. That is a very expensive problem. In New Hampshire, it costs $3,640 per person, $3,385 per person in Ohio, and $3,337 per person in Maryland.

When an opioid crisis digs its heels into any, one state, it has terrible effects on the state in excess of just harming those who are addicted there. The economic toll of drug abuse added to the misery of the family members of addicts make for a micro-depression in those areas affected. Currently, the states that suffer the most from opioid addiction are stuck in a mire of economic struggle and state-wide unhappiness. If that became the norm and the standard across the nation, our country would be in a terrible condition, far worse than where things are at right now.

Preventing the Problem from Expanding

Preventing the problem from expanding becomes just as much of a challenge in preventing new addicts from being made as it is a problem for those who are currently addicted. This is a battle waged on two different fronts.

On the one hand, we must prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place. We can do this by educating people, increasing awareness within our communities, and encouraging drug-free living in our households.

We also need to help those who are already addicted. The above states experience the worst of it when it comes to opioid addiction, but realistically this problem is everywhere. The problem will not go away until we help those who are addicted.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.