The Opioid Epidemic Was Not Caused by Economic Distress but by Factors That Could Be More Rapidly Addressed

Janet Currie, Hannes Schwandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Without the opioid epidemic, American life expectancy would not have declined prior to 2020. The epidemic was sparked by the development and marketing of a new generation of prescription opioids, and the behavior of opioid providers is still helping to drive it. Little relationship exists between the opioid crisis and contemporaneous measures of labor market opportunity: cohorts and areas that experienced poor labor market conditions do show lagged increases in opioid mortality, but the effect is modest relative to the scale of the epidemic. We argue that specific policies and features of the U.S. health care market, especially liberal prescribing of opioids, led to the current crisis. It will not be possible to quickly reverse depressed economic conditions, but it is possible to implement policies that would reduce the number of new opioid addicts and save the lives of many who are already addicted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-291
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Volume695
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)

Keywords

  • labor markets
  • life expectancy
  • opioids
  • prescription opioids

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