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The opioid epidemic will cost the U.S. as much as $214 billion in 2019

Hypodermic needles litter the ground in the South Bronx on March 13, 2019.
Hypodermic needles on the ground in the South Bronx on March 13, 2019. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The opioid epidemic cost the U.S. economy at least $631 billion from 2015 to 2018, and it'll cost another $172–$214 billion this year, according to a new analysis by the Society of Actuaries.

Why it matters: There's a serious financial incentive to address the opioid crisis, as well as a moral one.

By the numbers: A third of the spending between 2015 and 2018 was on excess health care used by people with opioid use disorder and their family members.

  • Mortality costs — mostly lifetime earnings lost to premature deaths — accounted for another 40% of the costs, while lost productivity made up 15%.
  • Billions of dollars were also spent on criminal justice-related activities and child and family assistance programs.

Go deeper: The youngest victims of the opioid epidemic