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Depression, anxiety, loneliness and pandemic isolation, at the extreme, can have the unfortunate effects of increasing substance use disorder (SUD) in the U.S. In fact, direct costs of SUDs are incurred primarily among the working-age population. In order to understand and improve the medical costs this incurs, plan sponsors will need the information on how it affects the workplace and how to best make decisions on the value of prevention strategies.

A new study authored by Dr. Cora Peterson and Dr. Mengyao Li at the Centers for Disease control, says that in 2018, 2.3 million people had an SUD diagnosis. The annual attributable medical expenditure was $15,640 per affected enrollee and $35.3 billion in the population; alcohol-related disorders ($10.2 billion) and opioid-related disorders ($7.3 billion) were the most costly.

At the employer level, these findings show that employers and health insurance payers can influence, and support, employees and dependents to prevent SUDs. They can also consider prevention strategies in terms of potentially offsetting the existing high medical cost of SUDs.

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