Drug, Alcohol Abuse Drag Down N.H. Economy By $1.8 Billion

Nov 18, 2014

Drug and alcohol abuse put a $1.84 billion strain on the New Hampshire economy in 2012, according to a new study. That figure was almost three percent of the state’s GDP in that same year.

The study was commissioned by New Futures, a drug and alcohol advocacy group, and conducted by PolEcon Research.

The study’s author, Brian Gottlob, says he was surprised by that figure.

“When you start calculating all the ways in which it has negative impacts on productivity, on the work force, and the way it directly costs citizens and government money, it becomes believable that it’s $1.8 billion,” says Gottlob.

Put another way, that’s roughly $1,393 per New Hampshire resident.

So how do we get to that $1.84 billion figure?

The study estimates nine percent of residents age 12 and up misused drugs or alcohol in 2012. That misuse translates into an economic toll when a person’s behavior has a measurable impact – when they miss a day of work, get arrested, or enter treatment.

Alcohol was responsible for the biggest portion of the societal cost: $1.15 billion came from lost productivity – people missing work or being unable to work – and 80 percent of that figure was directly from alcohol misuse and abuse.

On the treatment end, drug use – specifically opioid abuse – accounted for the fastest growing portion of the pie. Yet, the report finds addicts in New Hampshire are among the least likely in the country to get treatment.

“A 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated that in only one state (Texas) is an individual in need of substance misuse treatment less likely to receive treatment than in New Hampshire,” concluded the study.

Credit New Futures

Gottlob said that could change now that the state has expanded its Medicaid program, which covers treatment for addiction, and as more people enroll in insurance through the federal health insurance exchange.

“One impact likely is that more individuals in need of treatment will be able to get it without having to pay for it themselves, and I think that will…reduce the cost of substance abuse in the state down the line,” says Gottlob

New Hampshire is among 27 states that expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.