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Macroeconomic Conditions and Opioid Abuse

Alex Hollingsworth, Christopher J. Ruhm, Kosali Simon

NBER Working Paper No. 23192
Issued in February 2017, Revised in March 2017
NBER Program(s):Health Care, Health Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

We examine how deaths and emergency department (ED) visits related to use of opioid analgesics (opioids) and other drugs vary with macroeconomic conditions. As the county unemployment rate 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%). Macroeconomic shocks also increase the overall drug death rate, but this increase is driven by rising opioid deaths. Our findings hold when performing a state-level analysis, rather than county-level; are primarily driven by adverse events among whites; and are stable across time periods.

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A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the 2017 number 3 issue of the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health. You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23192

Published: Alex Hollingsworth & Christopher J. Ruhm & Kosali Simon, 2017. "Macroeconomic conditions and opioid abuse," Journal of Health Economics, . citation courtesy of

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