Globally, there are increasing concerns about the harms associated with methamphetamine use. This paper i) reports on the results of a cost-of-illness (CoI) study that quantified the social costs associated with methamphetamine use in Australia and, ii) drawing on examples from this study, critically examines the general applicability of CoI studies for the alcohol and other drug field. A prevalence approach was used to estimate costs in 2013/2014, the most recent year for which reasonably comprehensive data were available. The value selected for a statistical life-year in our central estimate was AUD 281,798. Other costs were estimated from diverse sources. Total cost was estimated at AUD 5023.8 million in 2013/14 (range, AUD 2502.3 to AUD 7016.8 million). The greatest cost areas were crime including costs related to policing, courts, corrections and victims of crime (AUD 3244.5 million); followed by premature death (AUD 781.8 million); and, workplace costs (AUD 289.4 million). The social costs of methamphetamine use in Australia in 2013/14 are high, and the identification of crime and premature mortality as the largest cost areas is similar to USA findings and represents important areas for prevention and cost remediation. However, caution is required in interpreting the findings of any CoI study, as there is uncertainty associated with estimates owing to data limitations. Moreover, CoI estimates on their own do not identify which, if any, of the costs are avoidable (with drug substitution being a particular problem) nor do they shed light on the effectiveness of any potential interventions. We also recognise that data limitations prevent some costs from being estimated at all.
- Health economics