It encompasses clinical and societal costs such as health care and social services, criminal justice resources, loss of productivity, and premature mortality, and is estimated to cost more than $700 billion per year in the United States. To understand the gravity of these economic costs, researchers, public health leaders, and policymakers can look to economic evaluation studies. As new SUD interventions are developed and introduced, economic impact analysis remains essential because it provides economic evidence that will help identify cost-effective interventions.
Studies of the economic benefits of SUD interventions have increased in the past two decades, reflecting the desire to demonstrate to policymakers that evidence-based interventions are effective, cost-effective, and/or cost-saving. In this systematic literature review published in the Journal of Substance Use and Addiction Treatment, researchers at the Center for Health Economics of Treatment Interventions for Substance Use Disorder, HCV, and HIV (CHERISH) thoroughly reviewed those studies to summarize the economic benefits derived from SUD interventions.
Authors of the paper include Erminia Fardone, assistant scientist at the University of Miami, Bruce Schackman, CHERISH director from Weill Cornell Medicine, and Kathryn McCollister, CHERISH Methodology Core director from the University of Miami. After narrowing publications down to 12 qualified studies, the team reported three key findings from the literature review:
- The greatest economic benefits over one year resulted from a reduction in criminal activity.
- Alcohol use disorder interventions were associated with a decrease in healthcare utilization costs.
- Reduced productivity following interventions lowered economic benefits and was generally due to reduced labor force participation and lost earnings.
The findings are consistent with a previous literature review published in 2003 on the economic benefits of SUD interventions, and emphasize that increased investment in treatments will result in additional benefits to individuals and society by avoiding crime.
The study, “Economic benefits of substance use disorder treatment: A systematic literature review of economic evaluation studies from 2003 to 2021,” was published online in the Journal of Substance Use and Addiction Treatment on June 9, 2023.