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Opioid epidemic costs West Virginia $8.8 billion annually, study says


Charleston Gazette-Mail

Dr. Rahul Gupta

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The opioid epidemic is costing West Virginia’s economy an estimated $8.8 billion a year, according to an analysis by a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute.

Among all states, West Virginia shoulders the highest per-capita economic burden caused by the opioid crisis. The Mountain State also dedicates the largest share of its gross domestic product — 12 percent — to costs related to the epidemic, the study found.

“We’re losing $8.8 billion per year, at least one-eighth of the economy,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, West Virginia’s public health commissioner. “It seems we’ve been grossly underestimating the economic impact.”

The study takes into account what states are spending on health care and substance abuse treatment, criminal justice costs and lost worker productivity, as well as the societal burden of fatal overdoses.

“What’s, unfortunately, unique in West Virginia, it’s not so much the rates of addiction, it’s the rates of death,” said Alex Brill, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “What’s most concerning is the high rate of opioid-related deaths.”

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