Economic Weakness Linked With Increase in Opioid Deaths

While it’s useful to have the actual research statistics, the results of this study comparing a weak economy with a worse opioid epidemic have long been evident to me and others with common sense on the matter. Of course there will be more despair when there’s a lack of opportunities in the immediate surrounding area of the community.

President Donald Trump has declared America’s surging use of opioids as a national emergency even as his budget cuts funding for some of the very health programs that target recovery from addiction.

A new study documents the relationship between drug use and persistent unemployment or underemployment. While drug use, and especially the opioid epidemic, has been widely discussed, the other issues have fallen off the radar screen of most economists as the headline unemployment rate sits at a historically low 4.3%.

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“We obtain strong evidence that opioid-related deaths and ED visits increase during times of economic weakness,” according to the paper, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

As the unemployment rate for a given county increases by one percentage point, the opioid death rate per 100,000 rises by 0.19 (3.6%) and the opioid overdose ED visit rate per 100,000 increases by 0.95 (7.0%), the study finds.