WASHINGTON — The White House Council of Economic Advisers said in a report Monday the economic cost of the opioid drug epidemic in 2015 was $504 billion, a value the council said is more than six times larger than the most recent estimated costs.
The council said in its 10-page report other studies focus mostly on health care costs relating to the use of medical opioids, which are prescribed for treating pain but also have a high potential for abuse.
Risky opioid use could lead to using other drugs, such as heroin or fentanyl.
“The crisis has worsened in recent years, with an increasing role played by heroin abuse, and evidence suggests that fatality statistics understate the number of opioid-related deaths,” the report said.
The epidemic’s impact in 2015 is equivalent to 2.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product for that year.
The council said among the largest and most recent estimates came from 2016, in which a private report found the opioid crisis cost the country $78.5 billion in 2013. The authors of the 2016 study found a majority of the cost was because of health care spending, criminal justice costs and lost productivity.
“The remaining 27 percent was attributed to fatality costs consisting almost entirely of lost potential earnings,” the Monday report said in reference to last year’s study.
The report also noted 33,091 people died in 2015 from a drug overdose involving opioids, which was 63 percent of total deaths caused by addiction. Most of the deaths occurred among those between 22 and 55 years old.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said West Virginia has the highest overdose rate in 2015 with 41.5 deaths per 100,000 people. The CDC reported 64,000 people died nationwide in 2016 from a drug overdose.
President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency on Oct. 26, ordering his administration to address addiction and excessive opioid use though not providing government agencies with additional resources on the matter.
The president’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recommended in its Nov. 1 report the establishment of additional drug courts, block grant funding for states to create courts and a multi-platform media campaign on the dangers of excessive drug use.