Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, Opioid Abuse, and Crime

Dhaval Dave, Monica Deza, Brady P. Horn

NBER Working Paper No. 24975
Issued in August 2018, Revised in January 2020
NBER Program(s):Health Care Program, Health Economics Program, Law and Economics Program, Labor Studies Program, Public Economics Program

We study the spillover effects of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) on crime, and in the process inform how policies that restrict access to Rx opioids per se within the healthcare system would impact broader non-health domains. In response to the substantial increase in opioid use and misuse in the United States, PDMPs have been implemented in virtually all states to collect, monitor, and analyze prescription opioid data with the goal of preventing misuse and the diversion of controlled substances. 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 PDMPs reduced overall crime by 5%. These reductions in crime are associated with both violent and property crimes. This decrease in crime is also reflected by a decrease in crime-related arrests as well as drug-related arrests. Overall, these results provide additional evidence that PDMPs are an effective social policy tool to mitigate some of 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

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