Prescription drug addicts who search for doctors to get prescriptions cost insurers an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 apiece, according to CNNMoney. It says the result in lost productivity comes to $42 billion, with an additional $8.2 billion in criminal justice costs. Altogether, the overall economic cost of prescription drug abuse is over $70 billion a year, CNNMoney says.
In the past 10 years, prescription drug abuse has grown so much that the Centers for Disease Control are calling it an "epidemic," according to CNNMoney.
In 2008, the most recent year in which data has been analyzed, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, according to the CDC. Of all those overdoses, prescription drugs were involved in more than 20,000 cases.
The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud has branded prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and methadone, as the most-abused prescription drugs "by far," according to CNNMoney.
Prescription painkiller sales have more than tripled since 1999, according to CNNMoney. Also, prescription painkillers were involved in 4,000 overdose deaths in that year, but that number had risen to 15,000 in 2008. Heroin and cocaine don't even combine to meet that number.
"There's no doubt that this is a growing cost to society," Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told CNNMoney. "We're in the midst of an epidemic, and it's really time for America to wake up."
With the rise in human cost, the economic cost has risen as well. According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a partnership of consumer groups, government agencies and insurance companies, the price of prescription painkiller abuse rose to $72.5 billion in a study in 2007, and other reports say the abuse of painkillers has increased since then, according to CNNMoney.