UToledo Study Estimates Impact of Opioid Epidemic at $1.6B
in Northwest Ohio
Fatal overdoses tied to
Ohio’s ongoing opioid epidemic cost the metropolitan Toledo
economy $1.6 billion and more than 2,000 jobs in 2017,
according to a new study by The University of Toledo.
At $1.6 billion, the total
economic impact of the opioid epidemic is equivalent to
approximately 4.5 percent of the region’s gross domestic
product — or roughly the same amount of economic activity
generated annually by the entire private construction
“The University of Toledo
has an important role to play in addressing the major issues
that affect northwest Ohio and beyond,” UToledo President
Sharon L. Gaber said. “This research provides another piece
of the puzzle as we work together to confront the opioid
The research was led by Oleg
Smirnov, PhD, associate professor of economics, in close
collaboration with members of The University of Toledo
Opioid Task Force.
“Over a relatively period of
short time, the number of deaths from opioid overdose has
skyrocketed, and the crisis doesn’t show any signs of
abating,” Smirnov said. “This report helps give us a better
understanding of how the epidemic affects our region, and
also provides a benchmark to evaluate the effectiveness of
our community’s ongoing response.”
Among the report’s key
* Fatal opioid overdoses
directly resulted in $1.27 billion in lost economic output
* Each overdose death costs
the economy $8.67 million.
* The indirect, or
spillover, effects of fatal opioid overdose were $329.2
million in 2017.
* Premature deaths caused by
the opioid epidemic cost metropolitan Toledo the equivalent
of 2,082 jobs in 2017.
* While Narcan is relatively
expensive at approximately $130 per dose, there is clear
evidence the economic benefit outweighs the cost of
administering the drug.
“These new findings add
valuable context to our understanding of and response to the
opioid epidemic,” said Dr. Amy Thompson, vice provost for
faculty affairs, professor of public health, and co-chair of
the UToledo Opioid Task Force. “The research can be used to
advocate for funding that goes toward prevention efforts and
treatment of opioid use disorder. It also can be used to
inform local businesses how this epidemic is affecting the
job market and creating financial loss in the community.”
The report’s calculations
are based on data from the Ohio Department of Health’s Ohio
Public Data Warehouse, which documented 147 fatal opioid
overdoses in Lucas, Wood, Fulton and Ottawa counties in
2017. Data from 2017 is the most recent finalized data
State records show those
four counties had 22 deaths attributed to opioid overdose in
2007. The state data relies on the official cause of death
listed on state-issued death certificates, and differs
slightly from fatal overdose data from local sources.
“While it may seem morbid to
put a price on human life, there are established economic
models that show how an individual’s premature death ripples
through the economy,” Smirnov said. “This report shows just
how costly each death is to our entire community, on top of
the personal loss of a friend, brother, sister or parent.
The opioid crisis may appear hidden to some, but it affects
all of us.”
To calculate the economic
cost of a fatal opioid overdose in metro Toledo, researchers
began with a federally established finding that a premature
death has an economic cost of $9.4 million. By adjusting for
northwest Ohio’s lower per-capita income and lower cost of
living, they arrived at a figure of $8.6 million per
premature death and $1.27 billion in lost economic output in
Each fatal overdose also
hurts the economy indirectly. As spending and demand for
goods and services shrink, employers may begin to reduce
staffing. In turn, individuals who have lost their jobs cut
back on their own spending. UToledo researchers calculated
those indirect, or spillover, effects cost the local economy
$329.2 million in 2017, while reducing full-time equivalent
employment by 2,082 jobs.
The total economic burden in
UToledo’s report does not include calculations from
non-lethal overdoses. While those incidents do have costs
associated with them — emergency room visits, criminal
justice proceedings and mental health services, for example
— the spending stays within the local community.
The report also offers some
hints that the region’s response to the opioid epidemic is
making a difference.
For example, a comparison of
overdose-related 911 calls received by Lucas County
dispatchers in 2016 and 2017 to the total number of overdose
deaths in those years found the mortality of opioid
overdoses declined from 8% in 2016 to 6% in 2017.
Researchers attribute that
to first-responders dealing with opioid overdose more
effectively, particularly with the use of naloxone.
UToledo’s research also
supports the notion that the expanded use of naloxone
prevents not only additional deaths, but also significant
damage to the local economy.
While first responders in
Lucas County administered an estimated $1 million-plus worth
of naloxone in 2017, a single premature death would have
cost the regional economy $8.6 million.
Access the full economic
impact report online at utoledo.edu/economic-impact/opioids