Penn State Researchers Study Societal Cost of Opioid Crisis

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A group of researchers including Penn State University faculty have published a collection of papers addressing the total impact of the opioid crisis, including its effects on employment, productivity, decreased tax revenues and increased burden on the criminal justice system.

The supplemental issue of The American Journal of Managed Care, “Deaths, Dollars and Diverted Resources: Examining the Heavy Price of the Opioid Epidemic,” is available in full here.

“State and local governments have long shouldered the burden of the opioid epidemic and its costs to individuals and families,” said Dennis Scanlon, professor of health policy and administration at Penn State and director of the Center for Health Care Policy and Research. “They are at ground zero for the epidemic, where services for those being harmed by opioids are significant and costly, spanning well beyond healthcare for treatment and prevention.”

Between 2000 and 2016, the report said, opioid misuse cost states more than $12 billion in tax revenue, including $10 billion in income tax revenue. Between 2007 and 2016, the crisis cost Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system more than $526 million.

A study in the issue placed the annual loss in productivity as a result of opioid misuse between $4.5 billion and $431.7 billion. Absenteeism costs between $0.3 billion and $16.2 billion. The wide range in estimates, the authors wrote, is due to widely varying methodologies in the examined studies, but nonetheless provide a stark image of the crisis’ impact.

“The supplement fulfills our initial goal of exploring the effects of the opioid crisis on societal costs,” Scanlon said. “Each article in this special issue presents complex cost analyses of the implications of opioid misuse, shedding new light on the opioid epidemic at the state level, and adds to a growing body of literature about the opioid epidemic.”

The issue also outlined health-care related costs of the epidemic. The national cost of opioid-use disorder cost Medicaid some $3 billion between 1999 and 2013, while in Pennsylvania alone, children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome associated with maternal use of opioids cost the state’s education system more than $1 million.

“Due to these costs, every American will continue to experience loss from resources diverted to the epidemic that could have been made available for other uses had the epidemic been prevented,” said Scanlon. 

Research contributions in the journal were supported by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under the project “Estimation of Societal Costs to States Due to the Opioid Epidemic,” and as part of larger work supported under a Strategic Planning Implementation award from the Penn State Office of the Provost.

Source: Penn State News

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