The Economics of Drug Use in Massachusetts

In 2020, the state of Massachusetts had the 16th-highest rate of fatal overdoses in the country. The state’s ongoing drug crisis has taken a toll on its economy, impacting essential systems like healthcare and criminal justice, as well as the allocation of funding and other resources.1,2

Keep reading for more information on the economic cost of addiction in Massachusetts and how to get addiction treatment in Massachusetts and other nearby states.

How Addiction Impacts the Economy in Massachusetts

Addiction can impact the economy in various and critical ways. At national and state levels, researchers have drawn links between substance abuse and rising costs in healthcare, criminal justice, and public prevention programs. Some have even found correlations between addiction and increased foreclosures and declining home prices.2–4

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined the financial cost of the opioid epidemic in various states, accounting for the cost of healthcare, addiction treatment, criminal justice, productivity loss, reduced quality of life, and statistical value of life lost.

In 2017, Massachusetts had roughly 67,000 cases of opioid use disorders. Per the CDC report, these cases cost the state a total of $14.8 billion.2

That same year in Massachusetts, 1,913 people died from an opioid-related overdose. Per the CDC report, these fatalities cost the state more than $22 billion.2

Together, these figures total nearly $37 billion. Additionally, Massachusetts and some of its neighboring New England states rank among the nation’s highest per capita combined cost of opioid use disorder and fatal opioid overdose.2

Since 2017, the state’s drug problem has raged on, with the reported number of fatal overdoses increasing to 2,555 in 2021. Nearly 90% of those deaths were related to opioids.5

Addiction & Healthcare in Massachusetts

Healthcare is one of the areas most directly affected by drug misuse and addiction. Substance use and misuse are associated with expensive medical services like inpatient hospitalizations and emergency department visits.4

Mental and behavioral disorders, like addiction, are also a common cause of hospital readmissions, and many physical health issues that lead to hospitalization (illness, infection, and injury) are either caused or worsened by drug and alcohol abuse.4

Consider these Massachusetts substance abuse statistics regarding healthcare:2

  • In 2017, opioid use disorders cost the state’s healthcare system more than $985 million.
  • That same year, state costs associated with fatal opioid overdoses exceeded $10 million.
  • In 2017, state expenses related to substance abuse treatment totaled $111 million.
  • During the fiscal year 2017 (FY17), more than half of those admitted to public and state-supported addiction treatment programs were unemployed and over 30% were homeless.6

These mounting costs and added burden on the local healthcare system can lead to higher insurance premiums and other out-of-pocket expenses for consumers. They also affect the state’s greater fiscal health and economy as a whole.

Substance Abuse in the MA Workforce

Substance use and misuse affect the Massachusetts workforce through lost wages and productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, and other factors.

Employees with substance use disorders are likely to miss more work than their co-workers. Addiction is also associated with greater job turnover and added costs for retraining new employees.7

Drug use on the job—even as directed by a doctor (e.g., prescription opioids or benzodiazepines)—increases the risk of work-related injuries like falls and can decrease employee performance. This is sometimes called presenteeism, or when a worker is present at a job but unable to perform their duties for various reasons.8

In Massachusetts in 2017, productivity loss associated with opioid use exceeded $985 million.2

These costs directly impact employers, as well as employee salaries and benefits like employer-sponsored health plans.

Drug Use and Massachusetts Crime Rates

Drug use is also associated with increased crime and costs to the criminal justice system.

Consider these Massachusetts crime statistics related to substance abuse:9

  • In 2021, DUI arrests nearly doubled from the previous year with 7,486 cases (a 43% increase from 2020).
  • In 2021, there were 10,057 drug/narcotic violations, a 13% increase from the previous year.
  • In 2021, there were 12,421 drug seizures, a 15% increase from the previous year.

These crimes can take a toll on law enforcement, the court system, and detention facilities or prisons, where many inmates either have an active addiction or were arrested for a drug-related crime.10

Once incarcerated, the cost of treating substance use disorders in prison is expensive, but it is also costly not to treat them.

In Massachusetts in 2017, the state’s opioid problem cost its criminal justice system more than $466 million.2

How the Economy Affects Addiction in Massachusetts

Drug misuse and addiction are often exacerbated by socioeconomic factors that can influence mental health and stress, including:

  • Poverty.
  • Unemployment.
  • Homelessness.
  • High crime rates.
  • Low levels of education.

Generally speaking, the Massachusetts cities and towns hardest hit by drug misuse and addiction are also those with high rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness.

Areas in the state where there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and poverty include:6

Substance Abuse Prevention in Massachusetts

Over the years, Massachusetts has made strides in its effort to fight the state’s drug problem and opioid crisis. In fiscal year 2023 (FY23), the state allocated $597.2 million in total funding for a range of addiction recovery and prevention programs.11

These initiatives include its existing Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), a data tool that tracks Schedule II–V prescriptions across the state. The PMP has helped drastically cut down the number of people using multiple providers and pharmacies to obtain controlled substances.11,12

Massachusetts has also increased its distribution of naloxone (Narcan), a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Since March 2020 (the start of the Covid-19 pandemic), the state has supplied over 210,000 naloxone kits to treatment providers, community health centers, hospitals, and jails. This has more than doubled the pre-pandemic number of patients able to access this drug.11

Massachusetts has also invested resources from its Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund into different prevention and treatment programs, including:11

  • $1.7 million to expand access to naloxone.
  • $3 million to increase access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).
  • $5 million to increase access to low-threshold housing, or comprehensive case management for homeless individuals struggling with addiction.

Drug Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts

Although addiction is a complex, chronic condition, it is treatable. If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, professional treatment can help.

At AdCare Treatment Centers, we offer different types of addiction treatment and have multiple locations in the New England area, including our:

To learn more about our programs or the rehab admissions process, call us at today. Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to discuss your treatment and payment options, how to use health insurance for addiction treatment, and any other questions you might have.

You can also confirm your coverage and get more information about using your specific insurance plan at AdCare by filling out this simple and secure

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AdCare has multiple locations throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island, making it easily accessible to most parts of New England. We offer an integrated system of care and have been helping individuals and families struggling with addiction for 45 years. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs in MA and RI or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.