Abuse of powerful prescription painkillers called opioids costs the U.S. economy $78.5 billion a year, according to a new government study.
Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the financial toll of opioid abuse, including direct health care costs, lost productivity and costs to the criminal justice system.
"More than 40 Americans die each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids. Families and communities continue to be devastated by the epidemic of prescription opioid overdoses," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. "The rising cost of the epidemic is also a tremendous burden for the health care system."
The study, led by Curtis Florence of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, found that health care accounted for about 30 percent of the costs associated with opioid abuse in 2013. Total spending for health care and substance abuse topped $28 billion. Insurance covered most of it, the study found.
Nearly 25 percent of the economic burden was shouldered by public sources. They included Medicaid, Medicare and other public insurance as well as government-funded treatment programs.
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