The White House says the true cost of the opioid epidemic in 2015 was $504 billion, or roughly half a trillion dollars, the Associated Press reports. In an analysis being released Monday, the Council of Economic Advisers says the figure is more than six times larger than the most recent estimate. The council said a 2016 study estimated that prescription opioid overdoes, abuse and dependence in the U.S. in 2013 cost $78.5 billion. Most of that was attributed to health care and criminal justice spending, along with lost productivity. The council’s estimate is significantly larger because the epidemic has worsened, with overdose deaths doubling in the past decade, and some previous studies didn’t reflect the number of fatalities blamed on opioids, a powerful but addictive category of painkillers. The council said previous studies focused on prescription opioids, while its study also factors in illicit opioids, including heroin.
“Previous estimates of the economic cost of the opioid crisis greatly underestimate it by undervaluing the most important component of the loss — fatalities resulting from overdoses,” said the report. Last month, President Trump declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency. He announced an ad campaign to combat what he said is the worst drug crisis in the nation’s history, but he did not direct any new federal funding toward the effort. Trump’s declaration stopped short of the emergency declaration sought by a federal commission the president created to study the problem. More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, most involving a prescription painkiller or an illicit opioid like heroin.