Opioid epidemic cost federal government $26B in lost tax revenue over 16 years

America’s opioid crisis cost the federal government some $26 billion in lost tax revenue and state governments $11.8 billion in lost revenue between 2000 and 2016, according to a recent analysis.

Referencing a study published in Medical Care last month, Vox reported the financial damage of the epidemic varied between states, from California’s $843 million in lost tax dollars to Alaska and New Hampshire’s $0. The study combined research, surveys and existing tools that measure tax revenue to calculate how much was lost from people dropping out of the labor market—even temporarily—because of opioid misuse, addiction or overdose.

Losses were greatest in regions hit hardest by the opioid crisis, and in more populous states with higher tax rates. According to Vox, the study could help guide ongoing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors and demonstrates that a taxpayer-funded response to the crisis could pay for itself.

“Estimating damages that are closely tied to opioid misuse is critical for determining what funds states, and potentially the federal government, may be able to recover in litigation,” Segel et al. wrote. “The estimates also have public health implications as damages paid to state or federal governments could potentially be allocated to opioid treatment and prevention efforts.”

More extensive analyses consider other costs of the opioid epidemic, like a 2016 study that estimated the total economic burden of prescription opioid overdose, misuse and addiction was $78.5 billion in 2013. A White House analysis put the estimated cost of the entire epidemic—including the full value of all activities people could contribute to if they didn’t die prematurely, health expenses and potential lost earnings—at a much higher $504 billion.

Read the full report below: