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National opioid painkiller crisis costs US hundreds of billions of dollars, study says

Opioid addiction cost the nation more than $500 billion in 2015, according to a new study. Opioids include both prescription drugs and illegal drugs. (2016 file photo/Rob Kim/Getty Images)

The nation's opioid drug addiction crisis is apparently far worse than what researchers projected.

Opioid addiction cost the nation more than $500 billion in 2015, according to a Council of Economic Advisers study released Monday. That figure is more than six times the $78.5 billion estimate from a private study in 2016.

Opioids include both prescription drugs and illegal drugs, such as heroin. Oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, and morphine are some of the more commonly prescribed opioid painkillers. These painkillers can then become addictive because they create a feeling of euphoria.

Why is it growing?

The council says the problem of opioid abuse is increasing. The council's study included figures the private study did not contain. For example, costs for health care, criminal justice, and lost productivity were factored in.  Opioids played a key role in deaths from drug overdoses, which killed more than 64,000 Americans last year. Most overdose deaths involved opioids — either legal or illegal.

President Donald Trump has called it a national public health crisis. Last month, he announced plans for a new advertising campaign to educate the public on the dangers of opioid addiction. Trump has called it the worst drug crisis in the nation's history. He has not announced plans for any additional funding to combat the problem.

A federal commission formed by Trump took the issue of opioid abuse a step further, declaring it a national emergency. The commission wants to see more drug courts, additional doctor training, and penalties for insurers that deny addiction treatment.

Just part of the problem

Opioids are not the only culprit in this national crisis. Alcohol and sleeping pills are often sidekicks to opioid abuse. As many as 31 percent of opioid overdoses included the use of sleeping pills. An editorial from Slate suggested the public is also unaware of other risks associated with sleeping pills: falls, accidents, infections, and depression.

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