Societal cost of heroin use more than $51 billion in the US in 2015, says study
Breaking News Jun 13, 2017
Societal cost of heroin use more than $51 billion in the US in 2015, says study

Heroin is an opioid, an analog of morphine often used for recreational purposes. It is addictive in nature and apart being harmful to one’s health, can lead to an overdose and finally, death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin-overdose deaths have increased four-fold since 2010.

A recent study published in the journal Plos One has revealed that in 2015, heroin use in the United States was so high that it cost an estimated $51 billion to the society. The study analyzed multiple variables to reach this conclusion.

Economic burden of heroin abuse

The study was led by Simon Pickard and Ruixuan Jiang, both pharmacoeconomists at the University of Illinois, Chicago’s (UIC) School of Pharmacy. The researchers established a cost-analytic model for analyzing the impact of heroin use on the society, using multiple variables such as:

  • Number of heroin users in jails and their crimes
  • Treatment expense of heroin addiction
  • Chronic infectious disorders like tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis B and C infections, resulting from heroin use and abuse
  • The cost of treatment of newborns with heroin-related medical ailments
  • Loss of output at work
  • Overdose deaths related to heroin

The authors reported that heroin addiction resulted in decreased output due to premature deaths. Individuals hooked to heroin spent a lot of time away from work due to their substance seeking behavior, hospitalizations and treatment for addiction. These people had high rates of absenteeism, unemployment and often, were homeless too.

The study estimated the overall societal cost per heroin user per year to be around $50,799. So, if the U.S. has approximately 1 million active heroin users, the total societal cost for them would be around $51 billion.

Unfortunately, in comparison to other chronic ailments such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and diabetes, the cost per user for heroin use is significantly higher. The overall societal cost for a COPD patient per year was $2,567 and for a diabetes patient was $11,148 in 2015.

Rise in heroin use

The number of heroin users has gone up significantly, especially between 2000 and 2013. This is supported by the World Drug Report 2016, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The report highlights that heroin use has reached the highest level in the last two decades.

“The opioid crisis didn’t happen overnight. The number of heroin users doubled from 2000 to 2013, rising from one per 1,000 individuals in 2000 to two per 1,000 individuals in 2013,” observed Jiang. According to Pickard, who closely studied the rise in the number of heroin users in the last several years, first, the users became reliant on prescription opioid painkillers. And when the prescriptions got over or the drugs became expensive, they switched to heroin, which was relatively cheaper and easily accessible.

According to the data published by the CDC, an increase in heroin use has simultaneously led to an increase in the number of deaths related to a heroin overdose. The rate of heroin-related overdose deaths rose by almost 21 percent from 2014 to 2015, with nearly 13,000 people succumbing to the heroin overdose in 2015.

Addiction is a chronic illness

Heroin abuse has penetrated almost all sections of the American society and in the absence of any concrete efforts, the number of users will continue to grow.

Addiction to heroin or to any other substance can affect all aspects of an individual’s life. It cripples the thought process of an individual to such an extent that seeking the substance for abuse remains their top priority. Over a period, a person might lose his/her health, relationships, finances, social circle, job and even his/her home. Therefore, it is essential to seek timely treatment to reverse the effects of addiction and lead a meaningful life.

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Also, read:

Secret signs of heroin addiction in a loved one

Kurt Cobain blew $400 daily on heroin

Heroin making inroads into suburban high schools