Heroin Use On The Rise
Heroin use in the United States is not only rising, but it is estimated to cost American society billions of dollars.
According to a study conducted by researchers from University of Illinois at Chicago, on average, the societal cost per heroin user per year is $50,799. There are around 1 million active users in the country, putting the total societal cost at approximately $51 billion.
This new finding was confirmed by Simon Pickard, one of the authors of the study and professor of pharmacy systems, who cited that the cost per user of heroin is higher than patients suffering from chronic diseases.
Aside from that, Pickard highlighted that without meaningful public health efforts, the number of heroin users is likely to continue to increase.
“The downstream effects of heroin use, such as the spread of infectious diseases and increased incarceration due to actions associated with heroin use, compounded by their associated costs, would continue to increase the societal burden of heroin use disorder,” Pickard said.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug that produces a surge of euphoria. It is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant.
The Study and The Results
The study was conducted by UIC pharmacoeconomists led by Simon Pickard and Ruixuan Jiang. The researchers used a cost-analytic model to determine how heroin impacts society using several variables: number of imprisoned heroin users and their crimes; treatment costs of heroin abuse; chronic infectious diseases contracted through heroin abuse (HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis), and cost of their treatments; cost of treating newborns with medical conditions associated with heroin; lost productivity at work; and heroin overdose deaths.
The researchers found that cost per heroin user is significantly higher than for patients suffering from other chronic illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ($2,567 per patient in 2015 dollars, or $38.5 billion for 15 million patients) and diabetes ($11,148 per patient in 2015 dollars, or $248.59 billion for 22.3 million patients).
There are other key factors why heroin use is causing a massive societal upheaval. Heroin users are less productive than others due to premature death; spend more time away from work due to seeking treatment for drug dependence and for drug-related hospitalizations, and have high rates of work absenteeism and unemployment.
The Opioid Crisis in the US
The opioid crisis is a prevailing problem in the country. In fact, the number of users has increased in the recent years. As heroin use has increased, the number of overdose deaths has risen as well. In fact, heroin-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010. From 2014 to 2015, heroin overdose death rates increased about 21 percent, with almost 13,000 people dying in 2015.