This paper reviews an article titled ‘States –level Estimates of the Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse’ authored by Thomas Wickizer. The study was published in the thirty ninth volume of the Journal of Health Science 2013. It contains the findings of an investigation done to estimate the cost of alcohol and drug abuse in Washington State in the year 2005. The study employed the Cost of Illness (COI) to estimate the economic cost of alcohol and drug abuse in Washington. Both the direct costs associated with payment made for medication and indirect costs which include loss of productivity were captured in the study.
The estimated economic cost of alcohol and drug abuse in Washington according to the study was found to be f $ 5.21 billion. This translated to about $832 per non institutionalized person or an individual who is not attached to any institution such as schools and colleges. The study made a summary on the categories that accounted on greatest costs and the exact amount of cost associated with each. The estimates were as following, crime ($1.09 billion), loss of productivity ($1.03 billion), and healthcare ($791 million).
The study was able to determine that there were several deaths resulting from drug abuse. The state registered 47231 deaths in the year 2005. The deaths attributed directly or indirectly to substance abuse were 3224. This was about 7% of the total deaths in the state. During the same year, 29000 discharges out of hospital in the Washington state were as a result of substance abuse. The paper ends by generally concluding that effective measures should be taken and developed in order to reduce the levels of the economic burden of substance abuse. Substance abuse should be treated and prevented at all costs.
The research used a prevalence-based method consisting of Cost of Illness (COI) analysis to estimate both the direct and indirect costs that are associated with substance abuse. According to study, direct costs included those that payments had to be made for. They included medical care costs as well as treatment offered for substance abuse patients. On the other hand, indirect costs were those that just involved the loss of the available resources such as loss of morbidity. Human capital method was used to estimate the indirect costs. In addition, the research used a 3 percent discount rate in determining the present value of future lost productivity.
The research adopted a societal kind of perspective in order to get a good estimate of the costs. The figures were specifically for Washington State. All the dollar rates stated in the study were according to the value of the dollar in the year 2005. Societal perspective kind of approach estimated all the relevant costs that are associated with the substance abuse in the year 2005. Transfer of payment was excluded because they did not represent any kind of loss. .His analysis focused on four categories that directly related to substance abuse costs. The categories accounted for a whopping 90% of the total substance abuse costs. The four categories include
- Premature mortality
- Crime costs, this involved the police protection costs, incarceration costs and the court costs.
- Morbidity cost. This refers to the house keeping values or decreased levels of earnings.
- Health care costs.
Wickizer used primary data in his research, and his sources included the following:
- Prevalence data of the state obtained from the National Survey on Drug use and health as well as a Washington survey of drug use
- Discharge abstract data from the Washington state hospital
- Data obtained from the state on the issue of arrests, convictions and the population of the inmates
The researcher advises that the values reported in his work may sound real and very precise but, they should be treated as just estimates. He further advises that in order to be able to estimate the behavioral effects of substance abuse, it’s important to convert the effects into economic value. This is more often based on limited data and assumptions that cannot be validated
The findings of the research led to a conclusion that the economic cost associated with substance abuse in Washington State amounted to 5.21 billion dollars. This amount translated to832 dollars per non-institutionalized individual. That amount was estimated based on the dollar value in 2005. When converted to the 2013 dollar value, it amounts to $ 6.12 billion. This would translate to 977 dollars per individual. Another finding was also that the abuse of alcohol accounted for 56 % of the cost. Mortality was the lowest, accounting for just 37% of the total cost in 2005. Crime, morbidity and medical care accounted for 24%, 19% and 15% respectively. The researcher states that in his earlier unpublished report, he compared the figures he obtained in 2005 to those he had in 1996. According to his identical methods and sources of data he estimated the costs in 1996 to be at $ 2.54 billion. That was approximately a 24% increase in costs from 1996 to 2005. This was caused by inflation rates, as well as the rise in the population growth in the Washington state. According to the research the per capita levels increased by 47% from the year 1996 to 2005.
The study to established 36 different causes of deaths which he categorized into direct and indirect causes. The direct causes included situations such as alcohol cirrhosis. Indirect causes included liver cancer while the unintentional injury included scenarios like accidental drowning. Intentional injury may include an attempt to commit suicide. When conducting his research, the researcher was able to determine that twenty-nine of the deaths that occurred were alcohol related. Also established was the fact that seven deaths were caused by drug related issues. According to the study, 47,231 deaths were reported in the year 2005. The 36 causes of death that the study was investigating were noted to account for 15,697 deaths. That translated to 33% of the total deaths. The study was able to establish that there were 3224 deaths, which translate to 7% of all deaths. This percentage is related to substance abuse. The results can be disintegrated to show that 3224 deaths were caused by alcohol abuse. The other 24% is caused by other drug abuse problems. 65% of the deaths were associated with men. The study was able to come up with five leading causes of death that accounts for the 56 % of the substance abuse related deaths. The five causes included accidental poisoning by drugs (677 deaths), Alcoholic cirrhosis (477 deaths), liver damage or fatty liver (256 deaths), suicide (237 deaths), motor vehicle accidents and cancer of the esophagus (218 deaths). Crime cost accounted for a total of 1. 09 billion, which is a 21% of the total cost related to substance abuse in 2005. The figure was an increase from the previous level in 1996. The crime costs include the law enforcement costs, correctional costs, judicial costs and other societal costs.
The research established the estimated cost related to substance abuse was approximately$5.21 billion. This can also be stated as $ 832 per non- institutionalized person within the estate. Alcohol abuse was estimated to cost $2.92 billion which is an equivalent of 56 %. 44% was related to the drug abuse problems. When adjusted on a per capita level, it can be noted that the costs within the Washington state increased from the previous value in the year 1996. The value increased by 47%. It was noted during the year 2005, that 3224 deaths occurred in Washington State. These deaths were caused by substance abuse. The figure represents a 7% of all the deaths that occurred during the year. As clearly noted, the 3224 deaths resulted into 89000 years of lost lives.
Two earlier studies were conducted in The United States. They were National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Drug Control Policy. They were able to provide a total economic cost in 2005for the substance abuse of 413 billion dollars .If an assumption is to be made that the Washington state’s economic costs could reflect the national average, then the total cost would be 8.7 billion dollars and not 5.2 billion.
The study is important because it highlights on the various departments of the economy that are most likely to suffer as a result of substance abuse. The manufacturing industry is a victim because it will eventually fall short of the work force to operate machines. The agricultural sector will also be lagging behind as a result of loosing young and energetic workforce. Because of drug and substance abuse, many young boys end up engaging themselves in crime. This makes them become police targets at a very tender age. In most circumstances, they get arrested and sentenced to imprisonment. This will mean they become unproductive for the rest of their lives. Families also suffer due to drug and substance abuse. Most of those who get affected are young children and women. This is because their male counterparts become unsupportive and end up neglecting their duties. The small children therefore, grow up without the fatherly figure in their lives.
It can also be seen that drug abuse costs the government a lot of revenue. This is in terms of money used in treating the victims of drug abuse. The government has to employ a large unit of the police force to deal with the menace. The government has to incur court costs whenever criminals engaging in drug abuse are apprehended. The governments can reduce the budget allocation to substance abuse related programs. Instead, the government can use such an amount in creating employment for its people or even feeding the hungry population. Apart from economic importance, the study can be used for the development of comprehensive substance abuse policy. The findings can be factored in the formulation of various provisions of the policy.
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