About this Journal

Article Abstract

Online ISSN: 1099-176X    Print ISSN: 1091-4358
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Volume 2, Issue 3, 1999. Pages: 133-134

Published Online: 24 Dec 1999

Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

 Brief Report
Costs of drug abuse to society
William S. Cartwright *
National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

*Correspondence to William S. Cartwright, National Institue on Drug Abuse, 6001 Executive Blvd, Rm 4N-4222, MSC 9565, Bethesda, MD 20892-9629, USA

Background: The costs of substance abuse in the USA are enormous and varied. Seldom are they comprehensively assessed. A new study jointly published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) has done just this. Aims: Researchers for the economic cost of alcohol and drug abuse in the United States, 1992 used systematic cost-of-illness measurement methods to evaluate the burden drug abuse and dependency place on the US economy. This burden includes widespread disability, morbidity, premature death, and diversion of economic resources to drug-related activities. Conceptualizing, identifying, and measuring this burden was a major undertaking; the report describes the methods in detail. Method: Costs are measured as the value of resources used (direct costs) or lost during a one year period. As adopted here, the human capital approach estimates an individual's value to society in terms of his or her production potential. The value of future lost earnings is discounted to present time. Finally, the study adopts a societal point of view that is consistent with the recommendations of the Panel on Cost-Effectiveness in Health and Medicine that was convened by the U.S. Public Health Service in 1993. Therefore, this study considers all health and non-health outcomes and costs created by drug abuse and dependency for the entire population. Results: For drug abuse, the annual cost in 1992 is estimated at $98 billion. By 1995, this estimate rose to $110 billion after adjusting for inflation and population change. For 1988, a previous and similar study estimated a cost of $58 billion. The distribution of costs is of particular concern.

Accepted: 2 September 1999