Opioid Epidemic and Healthcare Systems: The Cost of Drug Abuse to Society

The problem of addiction has reached epidemic proportions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the total economic cost of opioid abuse alone per year in the United States is almost $79 billion. This includes the costs associated with loss of productivity, involvement with the criminal justice system, and, of course, healthcare.1

Substance use disorders are commonly associated with multiple medical health problems that burden the healthcare system in numerous ways. Statistics on New Jersey drug-related hospital visits illuminate how the consequences of drug abuse on society extend to the healthcare system. New Jersey has just over 20,000 hospital beds total but in just 2017, there were close to 13,000 visits to state hospitals related to drug use alone.3,4 Of these, 23% resulted in inpatient stays. In Camden County in 2017, an estimated 380 per every 100,000 residents visited the hospital for drug-related issues that year. Between 2008 and 2017, there were close to 70,000 drug-related hospital visits. Nearly 45,000 of these were opioid-related. This shows just what an impact the opioid crisis has had on New Jersey healthcare.4

Identifying substance abuse issues and addressing them early is essential to alleviating this burden and saving the lives of those struggling with addiction.2

Addiction’s Impact on Healthcare

Impact of Addiction In The Healthcare Industry

Addiction takes a major toll on the healthcare system. People with substance use disorders tend to have numerous physical health issues that require medical management.2 One healthcare study found that one-third of the most common and expensive medical conditions were most prevalent among individuals with substance use disorders.2 In the same vein, those who seek treatment for addiction often have co-occurring medical conditions including high blood pressure, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, or chronic liver disease.2 Individuals with substance use disorders also tend to engage in risky behaviors that may land them or others in the hospital, such as driving while impaired.2

Adolescents with substance abuse issues tend to have more physical health issues, as well, ranging from headaches and insomnia to sexually transmitted diseases and injuries. Adolescents with SUDs also suffer from mental health issues at high rates. Among the mental health disorders that are most prevalent in addicted adolescents are attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorders, and anxiety disorders.2

Opioid overdoses alone have accounted for a huge burden on the healthcare system in the last decade. Nearly 70% of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S in 2018 involved opioids,5 and according to the National Safety Council, Americans are now more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a car accident.6 High opioid overdose rates have strained the healthcare system significantly, especially emergency departments. Those who overdose on opioids are more likely to overdose again,7 so often the same individual will require emergency services multiple times.

Early, Integrated Care Is Key

In so many ways, directly and indirectly, the healthcare system is overtaxed by the problem of addiction. Early, effective, and integrated treatment for substance use disorders can help to alleviate this problem.8 In the past, substance abuse was looked at as a criminal problem and not a healthcare problem, so preventative services and treatment options were limited.2 Now, the importance of identifying and treating substance use disorders is clearer than ever. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made mental health and substance abuse treatment an “essential health benefit,” recognizing the need to treat these conditions with equal importance as physical medical health conditions and make care accessible for those in need.2

Integrated care that addresses the whole person is required for the long-term health of the individual.

Professionals now understand that substance use disorders, mental health disorders, and medical issues are interrelated. Integrated care that addresses the whole person is required for the long-term health of the individual. Ensuring that people with mild and moderate substance use disorders not only reduces the need for future intensive substance abuse treatment and will likely prevent many of the medical issues that are common to those who have lived many years in active addiction.2

Treatment with Sunrise House Saves Lives

Substance use and mental health disorders treatment at Sunrise house treatment centers

At Sunrise House Treatment Center, treating the whole person is our mission. We know the importance of comprehensive care that integrates the treatment of all conditions with which the patient is struggling. Our treatment program is designed around co-occurring disorder care, which refers to the treatment of both substance use and mental health disorders. In many cases, we also accept medically compromised patients and either provide in-house treatment or refer out to other medical providers when necessary. When you come to Sunrise House, you won’t be looked at as an addict and you’ll receive treatment that takes into account more than just your drug use.

Early and effective intervention for substance use and mental health disorders can lessen the burden on the healthcare system, but most importantly it can save your life. Don’t wait to rediscover what life can look like without drugs and alcohol. Call us today at to discuss what inpatient drug treatment in New Jersey at Sunrise House can do for you or someone you love.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Opioid Overdose Crisis.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); Office of the Surgeon General (US). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health [Internet]. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016 Nov. CHAPTER 6, HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS.
  3. American Hospital Directory. (2018). Individual Hospital Statistics for New Jersey.
  4. State of New Jersey Department of Health. (n.d.). Drug Related Hospital Visits.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Opioid overdose.
  6. National Safety Council. (n.d.). Preventable Deaths.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Opioid Overdoses Treated in Emergency Departments.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Substance Use Disorders Are Associated with Major Medical Illnesses and Mortality Risk in a Large Integrated Health Care System.



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