Heroin Epidemic Costing United Stated Billions

Syringe, pills with drug vials in background

Heroin Epidemic Costing United Stated Billions

Since the year 2000, the number of reported heroin users has more than doubled. At the same time, heroin-related deaths, especially from overdoses, have more than tripled.

In a study conducted by University of Illinois at Chicago, heroin usage costs were calculated by looking at all of the ways over one million active heroin users interact with and are affected by the drug. Researchers sought to put a number on the heroin usage costs, and that number has been estimated to be over $50 billion.

Overall, the average heroin user costs the United States around $50,500 annually while incarcerated heroin users cost even more—nearly $75,000 annually. The cost of incarcerated heroin users factors in productivity loss, incarceration costs and hepatitis C treatment costs. HIV, which is spread via heroin use, costs an individual up to $300,000 over a lifetime of treatment.

The societal burden of heroin use will continue to grow unless significant public health efforts are implemented. “The downstream effects of heroin use, such as the spread of infectious diseases and increased incarceration due to actions associated with heroin use, compounded by their associated costs, would increase the societal burden of heroin,” write the authors in the study.

If US society was to treat heroin usage as a treatable medical issue rather than a moral, legal issue, a significant amount of money could be saved. Not only would incarceration costs decrease, but there would be an increase in productivity and motivation to seek help.

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Read the full story at pbs.org.

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