Expanding access to a treatment that combines medication and counseling for opioid addiction may generate significant cost savings while also saving many lives, according to a study by researchers at Stanford and the Veterans Health Administration.
Opioid use disorder (OUD) has become a public health crisis and is a significant cause of morbidity, death, lost productivity and excess costs to the criminal justice system. At least 2 million people in the United States have a substance use disorder related to prescription opioid pain medication.
“Opioid overdoses in the United states likely reached a record high in 2020 because of COVID-19 increasing substance use, exacerbating stress and social isolation, and interfering with opioid treatment,” the researchers write in their original investigation in JAMA Psychiatry.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last December announced that more than 81,000 drug overdoses occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.
So a Stanford team of decision scientists with colleagues at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System developed a mathematical model to assess the cost-effectiveness of various interventions to treat opioid use disorder. They looked at the cost-effectiveness from two perspectives: the health-care sector and the criminal justice system.
Study co-author Michael Fairley is a 2017 SGF Fellow.