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Baltimore and Maryland are among the cities and states facing the worst economic impact of the opioid overdose crisis

Calculating the economic cost of the nation’s opioid overdose crisis has resulted in a wide range of estimates — from $78 billion to $500 billion.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers last year decided that previous estimates for the overall loss imposed by the crisis were too low. So in addition to calculating the value of lost productivity, lost wages, criminal justice expenses and health care costs, the council applied a formula that government agencies use to determine the value of human life when deciding whether policies are worth their costs.


The council also increased the estimated number of opioid-related fatalities by 24 percent because recent evidence has shown that such deaths are under-reported on death certificates. It also included deaths involving heroin to estimates that had only counted prescription opioids.

The council’s estimate for the national cost: $504 billion.


But what about the cost to states and cities?

An American Enterprise Institute study from last year set out to answer that question.

The findings, based on 2015 economic data, were not good for Maryland, which previously ranked fourth among the 50 states for per-capita drug fatalities.

In AEI’s study, Maryland ranked fourth in total per-capita costs of the opioid epidemic after West Virginia, New Hampshire and Ohio. The per-capita cost for Maryland was $3,337.

Among counties, cities and other jurisdictions, Baltimore also came in fourth nationwide at $7,984 per resident, behind two counties in West Virginia and one in Kentucky.

The only other Maryland jurisdiction that ranks in the report’s top 30 was Allegany County. It ranked 16th with a per-capita cost of $5,882. Allegany is one of a handful of rural counties in Maryland that have experienced a spike in overdose deaths over the past decade, from 12 in 2017 to 36 last year.