The growing costs of an opioid, heroin epidemic: Hoosiers pay $1.4 billion in drug-related costs

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Not only is Indiana’s opioid epidemic costing hundreds of lives every year, it’s also costing you hundreds of dollars.

Two studies were released by the Fairbanks Foundation Thursday. One looked at the financial impact of tobacco, the other on the financial impact of the opioid addiction and heroin use in Indiana. Turns out, Hoosiers are paying billions of dollars every year because of a drug epidemic wreaking havoc nationwide.

“My addiction really started long before I started using heroin,” said Ben Gonzales.

Gonzales abused heroin for nearly two years. It all but cost him his life.

“I used heroin to numb all my emotions for about a year and a half. It wasn’t until things really, really got way out of control that I was ready to put it down,” he said.

The opioid addiction that has consumed the country isn’t only costing lives, but it’s costing cash as well.

“The economic impact is high. In 2014 the costs were more than $1.4 billion associated with drug overdose fatalities, truly a burden for all of us in the state economically,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, the President and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.

“It’s even worse with tobacco. We have more than 11,000 people who die each year because of smoking related illnesses and the cost is actually $6.8 billion,” said Fiddian-Green of tobacco’s overwhelming cost to the state.

That equates to the average Hoosier household, smokers and nonsmokers, paying around $900 every year because of tobacco, in their state and federal taxes.

“We need to do a much better job with prevention, starting in elementary school and continuing all the way through college and university and continuing into the work place,” said Fiddian-Green.

Drug overdoses claim more than 1,000 Hoosier lives every year. It’s that death toll and the skyrocketing costs associated with it that have led Congress to make some changes.

“We passed and the president signed into law a very significant reform bill with respect to opioids,” said Representative Susan Brooks (R - 15th District).

Congress passed major funding this year to pay for more access to narcan and drug rehabilitation programs. Known at the Comprehensive Care and Recovery Act of 2016, Brooks voted in support of the bi-partisan bill which was seen as a major step to fight the growing opioid epidemic.

“But it’s just a first step. We have to do more; we have to continue to do more. Just passing a bill isn’t enough,” said Brooks.

The studies have a series of recommendations which include increasing funding for drug prevention and education beginning as early as kindergarten.