That's what Austin Frakt asks? He quotes from some studies that seem to be accurate: For one, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that prescription opioid abuse, dependence and overdoses cost the public sector $23 billion a year, with a third of that attributable to crime. An additional $55 billion per year reflects private-sector costs attributable to productivity losses and health care expenses. About 80,000 Americans are incarcerated for opioid-related crimes alone. The total annual economic burden of all substance use disorders — not just those involving opioids — is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
Some other findings:
If we treated 10%1 more users, the robbery and larceny theft rates would decrease by about 3 percent and the aggravated assault rate by 4 to 9 percent.
For a dollar spent on treatment, up to three are saved in crime reduction.
For every 100 patients on methadone per year, there were 12 fewer robberies, 57 fewer break-and-enters and 56 fewer auto thefts.
The provision of heroin by doctors to patients addicted to it — permitted in Canada and some other countries — reduces crime.
The opening of an additional treatment facility in a county is associated with lower drug-related mortality in that county, as well as lower crime. The effect of crime reduction alone would save an estimated $4.2 million per facility per year, or almost four times its cost.