Analysis: Substance abuse annually costs Tennessee billions

Associated Press • Updated Dec 4, 2017 at 6:07 PM

NASHVILLE — An analysis has found that substance abuse annually costs Tennessee over $2 billion, with most of the cost attributed to lost income from people who have fallen out of the labor market.

At $1.29 billion, the lost income from having an estimated 31,000 people, or 1 percent of the workforce, out of jobs accounts for the largest component, The Tennessean reported.

Other listed costs include $422.5 million for hospitalizations associated with opioid abuse and $138 million for hospitalizations with alcohol listed as the first diagnosis.

Teresa Waters, chair of preventive medicine at University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, dug into the costs associated with substance abuse.

Waters said she took a conservative approach to the analysis, so the overall economic impact and state spending is likely higher. She did not include costs associated with substance abuse overdoses due to debate over how to estimate the economic impact from early loss of life.

Waters hopes the economic impact of the epidemic drives more state lawmakers to think of the issue as more than a tragedy for families, but as a roadblock to a healthy state in the coming years.

“It’s really our future. Substance use disorder is killing our future. We want to bring in more jobs to Tennessee. We want to have a stronger workforce,” Waters said.

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