The opioid epidemic cost $696 billion in 2018, and more than $2.5 trillion for the four-year period from 2015 to 2018, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA). The cost marks a $192 billion increase over 2017. The CEA, which is charged with advising the President on economic issues affecting the U.S., creates the report to account for the cost of lives lost by opioid overdoses as well as non-fatal consequences like health care for substance abuse treatment, criminal justice, and reduced productivity of the 2.4 million people suffering from opioid use disorders who survived.

“These massive costs point to the nationwide economic destruction from America’s very human ‘crisis next door,’” the report stated. The CEA’s cost estimates, unlike other calculations, take into account the value from a statistical life, or VSL, which are commonly used by regulators for benefit-cost analyses and regulatory impact analyses.

On the plus side, overdose deaths are beginning to trend downward as of January 2017. Compared to the previous trend for monthly opioid-related overdose deaths, the CEA estimated that nearly 30,000 lives were saved from January 2017 to March 2019, the latest available provisional data. “Had this trend continued its upward trajectory, CEA estimates that the cost of the opioid crisis would have been $386 billion higher between January 2017 and March 2019,” the report stated.

The CEA credits the SUPPORT Act, the largest legislative package addressing a single drug crisis in U.S. history, for providing solutions to the opioid crisis, including increased funding for treatment, enhanced education about the dangers of opioids, and improved security to stop the flow of illicit drugs. In 2018 and 2019, $6 billion in new funding was secured to expand access to medication-assisted treatment and other efforts. From 2016 to 2019, the number of Americans receiving medication-assisted treatment increased 38 percent to 1.27 million, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Despite the improvements, the agency said the opioid crisis is far from over.

Beasley Allen has an Opioid Litigation Team that includes these lawyers: Rhon Jones, Parker Miller, Ryan Kral, Rick Stratton, Will Sutton, Roger Smith and Jeff Price. This team represents the State of Alabama, the State of Georgia, and numerous local governments, as well as other entities in multidistrict litigation.

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