Managing the Opioid Crisis

September 24, 2018

The opioid crisis continues to cost millions of dollars per year. Though the considerable emotional costs cannot be measured, a 2016 report estimated that the total financial cost of the opioid epidemic in the United States alone was $504 billion dollars. Another study estimated that the opioid epidemic has cost the United States more than a trillion dollars since 2001 and may exceed another $500 billion over the next three years.

It is estimated that 175 Americans will die today due to an opioid overdose. These numbers can be even higher depending on location. The greatest financial cost of the opioid epidemic, according to the report, is in lost earnings and productivity losses to employers. Early deaths and substance abuse disorders also take a toll on local, state, and federal government through lost tax revenue.

One reason for the continued increase in costs, says Corey Rhyan, a senior research analyst with Altarum’s Center for Value and Health Care, is that more young people are being affected as the epidemic moves from prescription opioids to illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. The CDC issued a report on July 11, 2018, cautioning healthcare providers about the rise in overdoses and deaths associated with the mixing of opioid and non-opioid drugs. This report warned of the rising use of opioid and fentanyl (and other compounds chemically similar to fentanyl) resulting in an increasing number of overdoses that may be fatal.

The operational costs associated with the opioid crisis must be anticipated managed by chief risk officers, risk managers, and human resource professionals.

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