Wyoming is no stranger to substance abuse issues.
Whether it is alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, the associated costs to the public are astonishing.
The annual economic burden of alcohol abuse alone to Wyoming residents is more than $850 million.
That’s the finding of a sweeping study prepared for the Wyoming Department of Health by the Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center.
The recently-released, 77-page document, “Cost of Substance Abuse in Wyoming 2010,” is a cost-of-illness study that estimates the economic burdens imposed on Wyoming residents because of substance abuse.
The study takes into account health care costs, productivity losses to businesses, crime-related costs and costs associated with motor vehicle crashes.
Tobacco use costs the state more than $689 million a year.
Drug abuse — including elicit drugs and prescription medications — costs the state some $391 million annually.
These are staggering numbers, given that the least populous state in the Union, the Cowboy State, is home to a proud and few 576,000 people.
Now is the time to begin work for a healthier Wyoming.
The cost of substance abuse is a social issue and a well-being issue.
It’s also an economic development issue.
As much as we maintain that Wyoming has some of the best and brightest workers in the nation, there is no question.
An ever-decreasing number of companies will choose to relocate to a state where the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is so widespread.
Look at the numbers.
Business productivity loss from alcohol abuse is 70 percent of the total economic costs reported in the study, tobacco accounts for 65 percent and other drugs 48 percent.
Substance abuse, whether it’s alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, is preventable.
This imperfection on Wyoming’s social fabric is repairable and now is the time for all of us to take action.
Start a conversation with policymakers.
Become personally familiar with these findings.
Let’s work together to create an environment where our entire population must “opt-out” of a healthy lifestyle, where this healthy lifestyle is the obvious first choice for generations to come and where all Wyoming citizens can enjoy a safe state they call home.
It is time for our elected officials to become privy to programs and efforts that will help bring vitality, wellness, and renewed economic development to all Wyoming communities.
To read the report, visit wysac1.uwyo.edu/wysac/Reports.aspx.
Toby Granger, R.N.
Member, the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention
Editors note: The word length limit of 400 words was waived for the above letter.