Opioid Use Increases from Economic Decline, due to Unemployment, Mental Health Conditions

Updated 1 year ago Edited by Tony Rutherford from Multiple Reports
Opioid Use Increases from Economic Decline, due to Unemployment, Mental Health Conditions

A recently published  paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that the use of opioids is linked to economic conditions specifically the unemployment rate and aggravate pre-existing mental health illness.

The rate of drug overdose deaths involving opioids tripled between 2000 and 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One theory that has recently garnered significant attention posits that a decline in economic opportunities for some segments of the population has led to a rise in "deaths of despair," including deaths related to drug use. The fact that some of the recent rise in drug deaths coincides with the Great Recession and its aftermath highlights the importance of understanding the connection between economic conditions and drug deaths

According to the working paper, Macroeconomic Conditions and Opioid Abuse, for every local 1% rise in unemployment, deaths increase nearly 4% and emergency room visit go up nearly 8%.

The International Business Times explains:

"When the unemployment rate in a county increases by one percentage point, the opioid-related death rate per 100,000 jumps by 0.19 (3.6 percent), while the opioid emergency department visit rate per 100,000 rose by 0.95 (7.0 percent), the paper said. The estimated impacts are larger when researchers use unemployment rates based by state, rather than counties."

Researchers Alex Hollingsworth, Christopher Ruhm, and Kosali Simon have utilized data from the 1999 to 2014 CDC Multiple Cause of Death files.

"Overall, we obtain strong evidence that opioid-related deaths and ED visits increase during times of economic weakness."

The article concludes:

"Factors that influence these results are loss of health insurance or of public funding for substance abuse treatment during times of economic weakness... notwithstanding the possible pathways just described, we suspect that the dominant factor linking macroeconomic conditions to adverse drug outcomes is that the fatal and near fatal abuse of opioids often (and increasingly over time) reflects a physical manifestation of mental health problems that have long been known to rise during periods of economic decline... With the increased availability of prescription opioids (and reductions in heroin prices), it seems likely that the consumption of these drugs rises when economic conditions worsen and that some of this increased use leads to adverse outcomes including ED visits or death."





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