Recent research has found that substance abuse treatment can not only lessen the financial burden on the families and friends of those who battle addiction, but also can save public money by reducing crime (Source: “Spend a Dollar on Drug Treatment, and Save More on Crime Reduction,” New York Times, April 24, 2017).
Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that prescription opioid abuse, dependence and overdoses cost the public sector $23 billion a year, with a third of that attributable to crime. An additional $55 billion per year reflects private-sector costs attributable to productivity losses and health care expenses. About 80,000 Americans are incarcerated for opioid-related crimes alone. The total annual economic burden of all substance use disorders — not just those involving opioids — is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
In an editorial accompanying the C.D.C. =study, Harold Pollack, co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, wrote that opioid-associated crime, like all crime, extracts an even larger toll when you consider its impact on families and communities.
“The most important reason to support treatment is to improve the well-being and social function of people with addiction disorders,” Mr. Pollack said. But there are other social benefits. When the criminally active get help for this, “the economic value of crime reduction largely or totally offsets the costs of treatment,” he added.