A study published March 5th found that in 2017, the direct cost of addiction in hospitals was over $13 billion. According to the authors, “This study’s results suggest that the cost of effective prevention and treatment may be substantially offset by a reduction in the high direct medical cost of SUD hospital care.”
Medical Cost By Substance
The study analyzed records from over 124 million emergency department stays and over 33 million inpatient stays. Using this data, the authors calculated the number of encounters with a primary or secondary substance use disorder (SUD) diagnosis, as well as the cost by substance.
The first model in the study looked at only hospital stays with a “principal SUD diagnosis”—meaning people who were there for things like a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning—and controlled for secondary SUD diagnosis. The second model compared cost for encounters with and without a secondary diagnosis, such as alcohol or cocaine addiction.
According to the study authors, “Each additional substance identified in a secondary SUD diagnosis on the hospital discharge record was associated with an increase in hundreds of dollars in total encounter cost.”
The cost by drug of use ranged from $4 million for inhalant-related disorders to $7.6 billion for alcohol use disorder. Alcohol-related disorders were also the most common diagnosis made at the hospital, followed by opioid-related disorders.
Alcohol and Opioids Contribute to Health Problems and Medical Emergencies
Unfortunately, this is not surprising. According to the World Health Organization, alcohol contributes to over 200 health conditions. It is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States; among those aged 15-49, it is the first-leading risk factor for premature death and disability. Globally, more than 70% of deaths from drug use are related to opioids.
Addiction Costs More Than Money
The medical cost of addiction found by the study is very high. Still, the authors acknowledge that the costs—both to the individual and society, financial and otherwise—may be much higher.
“These estimates reflect medical costs incurred only in hospitals,” say the study authors. “Patients likely underreport substance use; therefore, results likely underestimate hospital costs attributable to SUD. These results do not address the cost of SUD borne by the patient and society in terms of lost quality of life and productivity.”
The results show the importance of helping people who are struggling with substance use early, before they wind up in the hospital with related health issues. Education and prevention also play an important role; people who use drugs or alcohol at an early age are more likely to have addictions later in life. We should not be waiting for people to overdose or have cirrhosis before we provide them with the proper care for their addiction.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build the coping skills to thrive in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.