"Take one example," Ruhm says. "Addiction treatment services, which includes a variety of things — that includes inpatient services, outpatient services, residential care. You're talking a cost there on the order of $230 million per year. And so if you take that over a 30-year period — and then you discount it to net present value and all the things economists do — you come up with a cost for treatment services of just under $6 billion."
Just that cost gets you more than a third of the way to $17 billion. The rest comes from all sorts of things, he says: public and physician education programs; treatment for babies who are born to mothers who used opioids; data systems for pharmacists to better track prescriptions grief support groups and more. Ruhm added up all those costs over 30 years, and got more than $17 billion.