Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, Opioid Abuse, and Crime
NBER Working Paper No. 24975
The past two decades have witnessed a substantial increase in opioid use and abuse in the United States. In response to this opioid epidemic, prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) have been implemented in virtually all states. These programs collect, monitor, and analyze prescription opioid data with the goal of preventing the abuse and diversion of controlled substances. A growing literature has found that voluntary PDMPs, which do not require doctors to access PDMPs before prescribing controlled substances, have had little effect on opioid use and misuse. However, PDMPs that do mandate access have been found to be effective in reducing opioid misuse and other related health outcomes. In this paper we study the broader impact of voluntary and mandatory-access PDMPs on crime, and in the process inform the causal link between prescription opioid abuse and crime. Using information on offenses known to law enforcement and arrests from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), combined with a difference-in-differences empirical strategy, we find that voluntary PDMPs did not significantly affect crime whereas mandatory-access PDMPs have reduced crime by approximately 3.5%. Reductions in crime are largely associated with violent crimes, particularly homicide and assault. Also, we find evidence that young adults experienced the largest decrease in crime, which is consistent with prior work that also finds relatively larger declines in prescription opioid abuse for this group. Overall, these results provide additional evidence that prescription drug monitoring programs are an effective social policy tool to mitigate the negative consequences of opioid misuse, and more broadly indicate that opioid policies can have important spillover effects into other non-health related domains such as crime.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24975