Every day, headlines detail the casualties of the nation’s surge in heroin and prescription painkiller abuse: the funerals, the broken families and the patients cycling in and out of treatment. Now, a new study sheds light on another repercussion — how this public health problem is adding to the nation’s ballooning health care costs and who’s shouldering that burden.
The research comes as policymakers grapple with how to curb the increased abuse of these drugs, known as opioids. State legislators in New York,Connecticut, Alaska and Pennsylvania have tried to take action by adding new resources to boost prevention and treatment. In addition, President Barack Obama laid out strategies last month intended to improve how the health system deals with addiction.
Published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, the study measures how many people were hospitalized between 2002 and 2012 because they were abusing heroin or prescription painkillers, and how many of them got serious infections related to their drug use. It also tracks what hospitals charged to treat those patients and how the hospitals were paid.