Tobacco, Opioid Addiction Cost Indiana $8.2 Billion Per Year

By Victoria Kim 09/14/16

Alongside struggles with opioid and tobacco addiction, the state is also recovering from an HIV outbreak in 2015.

Tobacco, Opioid Addiction Cost Indiana $8.2 Billion Per Year

Two new studies have shed light on the social and economic cost of opioid addiction in Indiana, in hopes that quantifying the problem in dollar amounts will bring more attention to the issue.

The studies—released last Thursday by the Fairbanks Foundation, which distributes research grants for the study of health and education issues in Indiana—examined the economic and social costs of both tobacco and opioid addiction. 

They found that tobacco addiction—including the costs of health care and lost productivity in the workplace—incurred a cost of $6.8 billion to the state. In 2014, opioid overdose deaths cost the state $1.4 billion and 1,000 lives. The death toll from tobacco was 10 times higher.

The numbers are “like a hidden tax we’re all paying because we’re not taking actions that will change that for our state,” said Paul Halverson, founding dean of the Fairbanks School of Public Health.

Good treatment and prevention strategies are critical to addressing the state’s addiction problems, says Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Fairbanks Foundation. “We need to do a much better job with prevention, starting in elementary school and continuing all the way through college and university and continuing into the workplace,” she told Fox 59.

Indiana is also recovering from a rash of HIV cases last year, spurred by people injecting the powerful opioid Opana. Many users reportedly turned to Opana after Oxycontin was reformulated to make the pills harder to crush so they could not be snorted or injected.

Last summer, The Fix spoke with Indiana’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Jerome Adams, while the state recovered from the previous spring’s HIV outbreak. The outbreak, which Governor Mike Pence declared a public health emergency, was bad enough to convince the conservative governor to issue an executive order in March 2015 allowing clean needles to be distributed in Scott County, where the outbreak occurred. 

Since that time, the number of HIV cases—which as of this past spring reached 190 cases since December 2014—has dwindled, according to the New York Times

At the time of our interview with Adams last June, the health commissioner was cautiously optimistic. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do and by no means are we declaring victory, but that said, I feel we’re on the right track.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr