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Our Opinion: Addressing the economic costs of addiction

Two recent studies offer proof that Indiana’s battle with tobacco and opioid addictions goes far beyond impacting public health; there are real economic consequences, too.

The studies, released by the Fairbanks Foundation and conducted by IUPUI’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, show addictions cost Indiana more than $8.2 billion a year.

The toll from tobacco alone comes to US$6.8 billion when taking into account health care costs, the impact of secondhand smoke, lost productivity on the job and other smoking-related diseases. The studies also found that opioid overdose deaths also cost the state $1.4 billion in 2014.

Indiana is not doing enough when it comes to addressing these critical health care issues. The state has shortchanged itself when it comes to tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The General Assembly has continually raided money intended to pay for smoking cessation efforts and public initiatives aimed at helping smokers. In 2014, lawmakers cut tobacco prevention and control funding to $5.8 million, which is about 7.8 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends spending to help Hoosiers kick the habit.

For the first time in at least six years, drug overdose deaths in 2015 in St. Joseph County outnumbered murders and fatal auto crashes combined, driven by a dramatic increase in lethal overdoses linked to heroin and related opiate painkillers.

Some say the studies represent increasing attention being paid to these issues. That’s good if that’s indeed the case. These deadly addictions can only be treated if they’re addressed openly with help from both the private and public sectors. It’s not only a critical public health issue, it’s also important for the economic vitality of Hoosiers.

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