Opioid crisis cost the US a record $1.5TRILLION in 2020 and deaths rose to all-time high as fentanyl use rocketed during pandemic, new figures show — as officials say lockdowns pushed people over edge
- A congressional committee estimated the costs of healthcare, criminal justice, and loss of productivity
- Opioids caused about 69,000 deaths in 2020 alone as the Covid pandemic wreaked havoc
- The economic toll of opioids for 2020 marks a 37 per cent increase from 2017
The devastating opioid epidemic in the US has cost the government nearly $1.5trillion in 2020 alone after being exacerbated by the Covid pandemic and rise of fentanyl, new figures show.
Officials said the opioid crisis, which has been surging for decades, reached its apex during the pandemic when lockdowns and hospital closures left people particularly vulnerable to addiction.
Those who had drug habits at a loss for where to go for help and people who were used to being treated in person suddenly were not able to meet with their healthcare providers face-to-face.
The damage caused by the pandemic was coupled with a flood of fentanyl, a lethal synthetic opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. The cheap drug is pouring into the US at astounding rates and contaminating drugs sold on the streets.
The economic toll of opioids for 2020 marks a 37 per cent increase from 2017, the last year the cost was measured by federal authorities.
The latest figures were revealed in a report issued by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee this week.
The death toll that year — which worked out at an average of 44 deaths per day — was the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of Americans going down every day with no survivors, said Maryland Democrat David Trone, who sits on the committee that issued the report.
The committee believe society-wide upheaval during the pandemic may have prompted people to switch up dealers who were more likely to sell them fentanyl due to changing drug smuggling patterns.
Opioid deaths skyrocketed during the first year of the pandemic in part due to widespread closures and lockdowns.
The committee came it its conclusion after estimating the cost of healthcare, criminal justice and lost productivity.
‘Pandemic-related stress and additional barriers to care likely also led to increased relapse rates among those who struggle with opioid use,’ the report said.
It went on, ‘Factors like self-isolation and the economic shock of the pandemic were linked to higher levels of stress, anxiety and other mental health issues, which worsened conditions for those with substance use disorder.’
The committee used the same methodology that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did in its economic impact estimate in 2017. Authors of the report estimated the costs of healthcare, criminal justice, and loss productivity in the workforce, as well as costs for reduced quality of life.
Isolation stemming from mandatory quarantine in 2020 led to a wave of fatal drug overdoses exceeding 91,000 that year alone. Opioids were involved in nearly three-quarters of all overdose deaths that year. The 2021 total far outstripped the previous year’s with about 107,000 deaths, 75 per cent of which involved opioids.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes deaths caused by fentanyl in its overall tally of opioid deaths. A national total of fentanyl overdoses is unavailable but several states have taken it upon themselves to quantify those deaths.
In Wisconsin, for instance, synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were identified in 91 per cent of opioid overdose deaths and 73 per cent of all drug overdose deaths over the last year.
Opioids, particularly the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl and its analogues, have driven a crisis of fatal overdoses. Users often are unaware they’ve taken fentanyl, an infinitesimal amount of which sprinkled in the drug supply can prove deadly.