When we talk about the opioid epidemic in America, we talk a lot about the cost of human life. Over the last few years, the outbreak of heroin use has continued to rise. This kind of inflation has come at the price of tens of thousands of lives each year lost. 2017 is already considered the worst year for overdose deaths in American history. There is no way we could possibly put a value on the lives of those lost. We can’t give a consultation on the damage their deaths have done to families and communities across the country. But looking at how heroin and opioids have hurt the economy gives us another means to measure the true cost of the opioid crisis.
We already know we’ve gone well over budget with the failed War on Drugs. While dollar amounts will never compare to the devastation of losing loved ones, maybe it can add another layer of perspective to the issue. So, how has heroin addiction hurt the economy?
How Heroin Hurts the Economy
It is actually complicated trying to identify exactly how heroin addiction hurts the economy. There are a lot of unique elements to take into account. For example, many have suspected that even the incredibly high rates of overdose death recorded may actually be under-reported and misclassified.
One study from a few years ago highlights several big-picture ways heroin addiction hurts our economy. This study assesses three “invisible costs” of heroin addiction most people don’t recognize.
We will start with the one that seems pretty obvious. Although, the cumulative effect of heroin addiction on the medical treatment infrastructure is more complex than you might expect.
Utilizing data from the mid-90s, the study estimates that heroin addiction treatment amounted to $5 billion dollars. That was so long ago, it is incredibly easy to predict that tab has shot up drastically in the last decade and a half as heroin use has consistently skyrocketed.
Another thing most people don’t realize is that the types of addiction treatment people have access to will depend on what their insurance will pay for. Because insurance companies are often more interested in keeping costs down than effectively treating addiction, it is safe to bet that a lot of that humble estimation of $5 billion was probably wasted on lackluster facilities and regimens that did not offer innovative and effective treatment. Part of curbing these costs is about support programs that do offer quality care, including comprehensive residential treatment.
According to health research and consulting institute Altarum, healthcare costs alone related to the opioid crisis reached $217.5 billion between 2001 and 2017.
Loss of Productivity
Putting a value on something you don’t have is pretty difficult to do. It is hard to adequately propose a price tag for an amount of productivity you can’t measure, but in order to truly grasp how heroin addiction hurts the economy, you cannot ignore the loss of productivity.
One estimate from researches says that the economy missed out on $11.5 billion because of people either:
- Unable to work
- Diverting labor towards addressing heroin addiction
But this is just from a guess of labor costs. It is impossible to quantify all the potential that never becomes realized due to heroin and opioid overdose death. Many people who use drugs and actually do recover end up contributing so much to their communities. So one can hardly imagine what it would mean if the over 72,000 people who died in 2017 from drug overdose were still alive today and what difference they would be able to make.
On one hand, the United States criminal justice system does provide jobs to millions of Americans. However, the public typically funds these systems. Therefore, the taxpayer is the one paying to put people with heroin addiction through the criminal justice system.
Researchers estimate that criminal activity, adjudication, and incarceration in connection to heroin costs the economy approximately $5.2 billion. Luckily, there is a new trend across the country of police helping addicts get treatment through PAARI programs.
It All Adds Up
When we add up the estimates from the three categories the bill comes out to a staggering $21.7 billion dollars. But things have continued to get worse since that study was published. Another analysis from earlier this year estimates that the opioid crisis cost the country $115 billion in 2017. The organization also claims the economic toll of the opioid crisis between 2001 and 2017 is over $1 trillion.
The economic fallout of heroin and opioids is on track to be over $500 billion from 2018 to 2020!
According to Altarum, the greatest impact on the economy as a result of heroin addiction is the loss of earnings and productivity. Based on the average age of overdose victims, around 41 years old, that cost is estimated at about $800,000 per person.
When we look at all those billions and trillions, it is easy to see how heroin addiction hurts the economy. It all adds up to a truly tragic reality we face as a nation. However, the opportunity to put some of this money toward other endeavors should be a huge financial incentive that our leaders to make some much-needed changes. It’s just one more reason we should be taking meaningful actions to prevent heroin addiction and provide safe and effective heroin detox and holistic treatment options.
In the end, no amount of money can replace those who lose their lives to addiction. We can look at how these tragedies translate to transactions, but nothing is more valuable than helping those who suffer find the path toward a better future. True happiness and lasting recovery are absolutely priceless.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing innovative and effective addiction treatment for anyone battling with addiction. Our professional team of certified specialists offers comprehensive care, and our missing is to heal each individual’s mind, body, and spirit. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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In the wake of all the turmoil created by the white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia this month the conversation on oppression, cultural tension and systematic racism has become unavoidable. With counter-protesters in large numbers present to oppose the white nationalist factions, violence eventually erupted. In the end there were 3 dead, at least 19 reportedly injured and a community in chaos.
From the moment the incident turned volatile everyone from every day citizens, to celebrities and activists, to democrats and republicans have spoken out about the atrocities of that day. Outrage and discourse has followed in every form, with some disgusted to see white supremacists chanting Nazi slogans walking with KKK members and heavily armed militia down a street in the heart of America.
While many voices with varying degrees of contempt have been heard, one Drug Policy Alliance director is using hers to make a connection between the ideology of white supremacy and the failed War on Drugs.
The Drug Policy Alliance
For some background on the Drug Policy Alliance, it is an organization committed to helping influence national drug policy reform. The DPA emphasizes the need to have drug policies on the use and regulation of drugs that are based on science, compassion, health and human rights.
According to the DPA, the drug war in America has produced ‘profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups’. Much of this inequality is said to stem from the disproportionate and devastating impact of the War on Drugs in communities of color, fueled by racial discrimination by law enforcement.
Despite the fact that drug use and drug trafficking rates are comparable across all races, the DPA states that compared to white Americans in drug law violations, people of color are far more likely to be:
Statistics on the DPA website state that African Americans:
- Only make up 14% of regular drug users
- Yet they make up 37% of those arrested for drug offenses
War on Drugs and Racism
By now the idea that the War on Drugs has had an unjust impact on minority communities is nothing new. Some may argue these points, but for many years researchers from all over the country have done the due diligence before deciding to speak out against the racial element to the failed War on Drugs.
It has been proven the majority of drug users in the United States are white, and yet African Americans are the largest group being targeted with arrests and charges of possession. This alone has been enough to convince many advocates that white supremacy, whether you want to argue intentional or subconscious, has played a part in the War on Drugs and how it has damaged the country. America’s drug war enforces some of the most controversial pieces of legislation and drug policy, including:
- Mandatory minimum penalties
- Stop-and-frisk searches
Both of these concepts have faced frequent opposition for effecting minorities disproportionately.
The War on Drugs doesn’t just damage individual lives. It harms African-American communities as a whole. Social scientists still assert that the War on Drugs could not be maintained without societal racism and the manipulation of racial stereotypes. Even a former aide to President Nixon, who began the War on Drugs in the 80s, has suggested that the War on Drugs was racially and politically motivated.
DPA VS Trump Administration
Megan Farrington, one of the directors of the Drug Policy Agency (DPA) has taken a firm stance on the subject following the President’s comments last Tuesday regarding the tragic events that sparked division and outrage over the past few weeks. In her comments Farrington calls out those responsible for shaping drug policy today, while condemning the archaic strategies that many say have helped bring the issue to where it is today.
President Donald Trump responded to the Charlottesville tragedy with comments insisting we should place blame on ‘both sides’ during a statement that has become widely criticized and caused a great deal of contention among politicians and everyday people alike. Those who are outraged at the President’s comments claim his statements seem to sound like the words of a ‘nazi/white nationalist apologist’, while others insist that because the counter-protestors fought back, they are to blame as well.
Following the President’s statement, DPA director Farrington tweeted:
“There is no ‘both sides’ to racial hatred, nothing ambiguous about white supremacy. We will continue to fight for justice and against hate.”
During her engagement in the debate, Farrington went a step further than refuting the President’s claims; she called out the entire system for a failed War on Drugs as part of the problem with racial oppression, stating:
“The drug war is a tool of racial oppression. When white supremacists chant Nazi slogans and our president defends them, we have to speak out. If we fight the racism inherent in the drug war but allow it to go unchecked elsewhere, our work may take down one tool only to see it replaced with another.”
It wasn’t just Karrington who went on the offensive after the Charlottesville incident or the president’s comments. The DPA’s senior director of national affairs, Bill Piper, also chimed in on the action, condemning not only the president’s statement, but also Jeff Sessions, the administration’s controversial attorney general. While the piece from Piper called out Trump and Bannon, the focal point of the fury was aimed at Sessions and his past controversy regarding race. Piper states:
“Sessions has a long record of hostility to justice and civil liberties… He was denied a federal judgeship in the 80s because the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee found that he had a record of racist statements and actions. A black colleague testified at the time that Sessions referred to him as ‘boy.’ Sessions referred to the NAACP and other civil rights organizations as un-American groups that ‘forced civil rights down the throats of people.’ He even reportedly said he thought the KKK was ‘OK’ until he found out its members smoked pot.”
This isn’t the only reason people like Piper are upset about Sessions. Only six months into his position as US Attorney General, Sessions has already started back-tracking drug policy to recapture the drug war days. Attorney General Sessions has already urged law enforcement to pursue stricter sentences in drug cases and increased the use of civil asset forfeiture.
Race Should Not Matter in Recovery
While opinions still clash over the idea that race played a huge part in the implementation of the War on Drugs, and many will continue to insist that white supremacy has never influenced drug policy, others are not so sure. Piper adds in his statement:
“The role the drug war, and punitive criminal justice policies more generally, play in perpetuating white supremacy should be at the top of the list. At the very least, policymakers who ignore the issue should be seen as suspect. Racial justice requires massive criminal justice reform.”
Either way we look at it though, the War on Drugs has failed us for many reasons. It was far too expensive for the devastating results it has yielded. It reinforced stigma against drug use and those struggling with addiction. And most experts agree that it had a disproportionate impact on minority communities. Even if we ignore the conclusions of researchers advocating for minorities, we should all be able to see that overall the drug war has been a tool of oppression, not transformation.
Much like discrimination and racism, overcoming substance use and addiction begins with raising awareness and being open to compassionate conversation. Recovery, both personal and as a community, begins with acceptance and working together. Palm Healthcare Company is committed to working with every walk of life in every community to try and inspire transformation that can save a life, and change the world. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398