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Lost Productivity From Opioid Addiction Is Draining Billions From Virginia’s Coffers

Prescription painkiller Hydrocodine Bitartrate and Acetaminopohen, 7.5mg/325mg pills, made by Mallinckrodt sit on a counter at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/George Frey)Prescription painkiller Hydrocodine Bitartrate and Acetaminopohen, 7.5mg/325mg pills, made by Mallinckrodt sit on a counter at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/George Frey)

Opioid addiction is draining billions annually from Virginia due to a drop in labor productivity, according to a report on the economic health of Virginia.

The report, published by Old Dominion University’s Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, reveals that the opioid epidemic is significantly impacting economic production in Virginia. The researchers estimate the labor force participation rate in Virginia has declined by roughly 3 percent due to the opioid addiction crisis, costing the state roughly $6 billion in annual lost productivity, reports Virginia Public Radio.

Robert McNab, deputy director of the Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, says this often-overlooked cost reveals the scope of the epidemic and its impact on the working population.

“This suggests that the opioid crisis is not only costing Virginia in terms of lives, in terms of individuals no longer actively participating in society, but is also undermining economic performance in the commonwealth,” McNab said, according to Virginia Public Radio.

McNab also says that drug addiction in the state differs significantly from region to region. He notes that deaths from prescription painkillers are higher in the southwestern parts of the state, while deaths from illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl are more concentrated in Northern Virginia and the areas near Richmond and Hampton Roads.

Opioid deaths are surging this year in Virginia, according to a report from the state Department of Health. Painkillers are the top cause of unnatural or accidental death in Virginia, surpassing both motor vehicle and gun fatalities, and officials say the epidemic is showing little signs of letting up.

President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” Oct. 26, giving states hit hard by opioid addiction flexibility on how they direct federal resources to combat rising drug deaths.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.

Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse released Sept. 7 predicts that the addiction epidemic in America will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row that drug deaths surpass U.S. casualties from the Vietnam War.

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