The US Opioid Crisis Cost Almost $1.5 Trillion In 2020

A new congressional report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the United States deeper into the opioid crisis. The number of deaths from opioid overdose and the economic toll of the epidemic has greatly surpassed 2017 levels, with the latter going up to nearly $1.5 trillion in 2020 alone and that number is just likely to go up.

The pandemic caused disruptions in the US health care system. It reduced access to substance abuse treatment and heightened social and economic stress that can contribute to addiction. In 2020, the number of Americans diagnosed with opioid use disorder — and tragically, the number of fatal overdoses — increased dramatically.

According to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) report, 2020 and 2021 saw the highest ever reported fatal opioid overdoses. 

“It’s equivalent to one 737 (jet) every day going down, no survivors. It’s a mind-boggling number of deaths,” said Representative David Trone, a member of the committee that presented the report.

The committee’s analysis, which adapted a methodology used by the CDC to estimate the cost of the opioid epidemic in 2017, found that opioid-related costs surged to nearly $1.5 trillion in 2020, an increase of $487 billion from the year before.

Numbers for 2021 in terms of costs have yet to be estimated but the rise in the number of fatal opioid overdoses indicate that the cost will likely be higher than it was in 2020. 

The pandemic also underscored racial disparities within the crisis. The report found that while opioid use is more common among white Americans, “Black adults and teens experienced a steeper increase in the rate of fatal opioid overdoses compared to their white counterparts over the last decade.”  

Black Americans find it more difficult to get addiction treatment as they are less likely to have access to affordable healthcare. They made up 17% of fatal opioid overdoses in the US in 2020, despite only accounting for 12.4% of the people living in the country.

“Black Americans are less likely to have access to affordable health care, evidence-based treatment, and prescribed medications that can reduce the risk of fatal opioid overdoses,” the report said.

Last week, the White House announced $1.5 billion in funding to address the opioid crisis, in addition to the $5.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act and other 2021 actions to fund treatment programs across the US and its territories.

Information for this briefing was found via JEC, Reuters, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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