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Substance Use Disorder Costs Topped $13 Billion for Hospitals in 2017

MONDAY, April 5, 2021 -- Annual medical costs associated with substance use disorder (SUD) in U.S. emergency departments and inpatient settings exceeded $13 billion in 2017, according to a study published online March 5 in JAMA Network Open.

Cora Peterson, Ph.D., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues estimated the annual attributable medical cost of SUD in U.S. hospitals using nationally representative hospital emergency department (124,573,175 encounters) and inpatient encounters (33,648,910) identified from the 2017 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Emergency Department Sample and National Inpatient Sample.

The researchers found that total annual estimated attributable SUD medical cost in hospitals was $13.2 billion. The cost ranged by substance type from $4 million for inhalant-related disorders to $7.6 billion for alcohol-related disorders. Approximately 4 percent of all hospital emergency department encounters had an SUD diagnosis (principal or secondary), as did approximately 10 percent of all hospital inpatient encounters.

"This study's results suggest that the cost of effective prevention and treatment may be substantially offset by a reduction in the high direct medical cost of SUD hospital care," the authors write.

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