Addiction and the Economy:  The Hidden Link 

The preventable loss of life from addiction is a tragedy which destroys families and devastates communities. But often absent from the conversation about addiction is the fact that it is also inflicting harm on the American economy, on a scale not seen in any previous drug crisis.  A 2011 study,  published in the journal Pain Medicine, estimated that health-care costs related to prescription opioid abuse amounted to $25 billion dollars, and criminal-justice-system costs totaled $5.1 billion. But the largest financial cost was to the workplace, which accounted for $25.6 billion, in the form of lost earnings and employment. Howard Birnbaum, a health-care economist and one of the authors of the study, explains, “There are major consequences to the economy…If people don’t have jobs, they don’t have money to spend in the grocery store, or on gasoline.”

And evidence supporting the link between addiction and the economy is growing. In July of 2017, economists from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., reported that America’s opioid epidemic is sidelining people in their prime working years and contributing to the stubbornly low rate of men and women who are either employed or looking for jobs. In September of 2017, Princeton economist Alan Krueger, noted a definitive link between addiction and the reduced labor force: Where Have All the Workers Gone? An Inquiry into the Decline of the U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate

The human, social and economic costs of this national crisis can certainly feel overwhelming.  However, here in North Central Massachusetts we have reason to be hopeful as our region is uniquely poised to face this challenge head-on. In February of 2017, the City of Fitchburg applied to be a Pilot Community with Facing Addiction, Inc. The application was submitted by the Joint Coalition on Health after requesting and receiving the full support of Fitchburg leadership including Mayor DiNatale, Chief Martineau and Board of Health Director, Stephen Curry.

Facing Addiction Inc. received more than 50 applications from communities across the country. In March of 2017, it was announced that Fitchburg, MA was selected as one of 15 communities to participate in the organization’s pilot community project.


The Pilot Project, Facing Addiction In Fitchburg And Beyond, is seeking support and participation from all sectors including our region’s vibrant business community.

Ways to take action now:

  • Support our work: We are an entirely grassroots initiative. If you are interested in becoming a benefactor of this important work, please contact us at
  • Consider participating in in our research project: On October 16, 2017, we are launching LUV: Listening to Unheard Voices. Working in partnership with UMass Medical School, Community Health Connections and others, the project will conduct interviews and focus groups throughout North Central MA.  The Project is particularly interested in talking with people who have been directly impacted by addiction. All interviews are completely confidential. Information gathered will be shared with community leaders to inform them about what is being experienced on the frontlines. For more information, please contact us at
  • Visit us at Facing Addiction In Fitchburg And Beyond
  • Join our mailing list by contacting us at


 “Addiction is a health issue that must be treated as such. It is a preventable illness, and recovery is a reality for over 23 million Americans. But with 22 million still suffering, it is past time to take new and innovative approaches to solving this public health crisis.” – Michael King

If you or a loved one is in need of treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction in MA, call 1-800-327-5050. The Helpline is the only statewide, public resource for finding substance use treatment and recovery services. Helplines services are free and confidential.

  • Susan Buchholz, Volunteer Chair and Coordinator of the Joint Coalition On Health & Volunteer Director of Facing Addiction In Fitchburg And Beyond.