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  • The Cost Of Opioid Misuse On The Healthcare System

    Published on March 10, 2023
    Doctor Using A Tablet-The Cost Of Opioid Misuse On The Healthcare System

    Opioids are highly addictive pain medications. In the 1990s, their popularity skyrocketed. Since then, the United States has faced record-breaking rates of opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose. This crisis has taken a serious financial toll on the healthcare system.

    The Cost Of Opioid Misuse On The Healthcare System

    According to a recent analysis by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), the opioid crisis cost the country almost $1.5 trillion in 2020. That’s a 37% increase from 2017, when the cost was last measured. 

    Most of these costs cover treatment for opioid use disorder and opioid overdose.

    Costs Of Opioid Use Disorder Treatment 

    There are a number of evidence-based treatments for opioid use disorder, including:

    • medical detox, in which doctors help you manage withdrawal symptoms as you stop using opioids
    • mental health counseling, in which a therapist helps you manage opioid cravings and other mental health concerns
    • medication-assisted treatment, in which doctors prescribe medications to ease opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms
    • support groups, in which you can discuss your experiences and coping strategies with other people recovering from opioid use disorder 

    New data from Premier Inc. AI Applied Sciences shows that hospitals spend over $95 billion per year treating opioid use disorder. That’s 7.86% of all hospital spending. 

    Even so, 87% of people with opioid use disorder don’t receive evidence-based treatment. Studies show that white people are much more likely to receive this type of treatment than other demographics. That’s because many groups face unique barriers.

    For example, Native Americans often live in communities with inadequate funding for opioid treatment, while Hispanic and Latin people may struggle to find culturally appropriate translation services. Similarly, many African Americans avoid seeking treatment because they are more likely than other groups to be criminalized for opioid use.

    Costs Of Opioid Overdose Treatment 

    On average, patients with opioid use disorder have a 32.5% higher cost per emergency room visit compared to other patients. That’s because opioids pose a high risk of overdose, especially if you use them in a manner not prescribed. 

    Each year, hospitals spend about $1.94 billion treating opioid overdoses.

    ER patients who overdose on opioids face a high risk of costly issues such as multiple organ failure, hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) stays, and unplanned readmissions. They also tend to be younger than other ER patients, according to a Premier Inc. analysis that compared data from 2017 and 2022. 

    The data also showed that overdose patients are often white or Native American. These groups have the first and second highest rates of opioid use disorder respectively. 

    Across the nation, about 2.28% of ER visits involve opioid use disorder. Some states have more opioid-related visits than others. New Mexico and New Jersey have the highest rates at 7.09% and 5.54%, while Arkansas and Iowa have the lowest rates.

    Fentanyl Considerations

    In recent years, opioid overdoses have increased dramatically due to fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic (human-made) opioid that’s up to 50 times stronger than heroin. 

    Although it’s extremely potent, it’s cheap to manufacture. That’s why many drug dealers have started adding it to other substances, including powder drugs like cocaine and pills like Xanax. 

    In most cases, buyers don’t know when a drug has been laced with fentanyl. Thus, anyone who uses street drugs could accidentally ingest fentanyl, which explains why the healthcare system spends so much money on opioid overdoses. 

    Opioid Settlements

    Numerous opioid manufacturers and distributors have faced lawsuits for contributing to the opioid crisis. Many of these companies have reached settlements that will help fund opioid treatment and prevention programs.

    For example, in March 2022, Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactures the popular opioid OxyContin, reached a $6 billion settlement. 

    Also, in November 2022, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart—three of the top opioid distributors—agreed to pay $4.9 billion, $5 billion, and $3 billion respectively. 

    Other companies have made similar agreements. Overall, opioid settlements now surpass $50 billion total. 

    However, that’s only a little more than half of the annual $95 billion that hospitals spend treating opioid use disorder. In other words, although the settlements will help, the opioid crisis continues to cost the healthcare system a significant amount of money.

    If you or someone you love struggles with opioids, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs offer personalized, evidence-based services to help you or your loved one stay drug-free.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2021 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
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