The High Price of the Opioid Crisis, 2021

Increasing access to treatment can reduce costs

The High Price of the Opioid Crisis, 2021

Untreated opioid use disorder (OUD), a chronic brain disease, has a serious cost to people, their families, and society because of increased health care spending, criminal justice issues, and lost productivity.

Each year, opioid overdose, misuse, and dependence account for:

$35 billion in health care costs1

Patients who experienced an opioid overdose accounted for $1.94 billion in annual hospital costs.2

$14.8 billion in criminal justice costs3

Each dollar invested in addiction treatment reduces drug-related crime, theft, and criminal justice costs by $4-$7.4

$92 billion in lost productivity5

The losses stem from premature death due to overdose, “productive hours” lost to OUD, and opioid-related incarceration.

Nearly 70,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2020.6 Improving access to evidence-based treatments for OUD has been associated with savings of $25,000 to $105,000 in lifetime costs per person.7


  1. C. Florence, F. Lui, and K. Rice, “The Economic Burden of Opioid Use Disorder and Fatal Opioid Overdose in the United States, 2017,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 218 (2021),
  2. Premier Inc., “Opioid Overdoses Costing U.S. Hospitals an Estimated $11 Billion Annually,” news release, Jan. 3, 2019,
  3. Florence et al., “The Economic Burden of Opioid Use Disorder.”
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Principles of Effective Treatment,” accessed July 8, 2021,
  5. Florence et al., “The Economic Burden of Opioid Use Disorder.”
  6. National Center for Health Statistics, “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts,” accessed July 16, 2021,
  7. M. Fairley et al., “Cost-Effectiveness of Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder,” JAMA Psychiatry 78, no. 7 (2021),