Study highlights the harmful effect of prescription opioids on labor markets



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Prescribed opioids may be negatively impacting labor force participation and unemployment across the country, according to the results of a new study co-authored by economists at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and published in The Journal of Human Resources.

The study, which looked at countywide data across the US, found that a 10% increase in per capita opioid prescriptions led to a 0.6 percentage point drop in labor force participation rates and 0.1 percentage point in unemployment rates.

The study, which measures the causal effects of opiates on the workforce, is the first of its kind to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, said Matt Harris, an assistant professor at the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at UT and co-author of the study. study.

"The effects are very large," Harris said. "Prescribed opioids can explain up to half the decline in labor force participation since 2000."

Harris is co-author of the article "Prescription Opioids and Labor Market Pain" with Larry Kessler, Matt Murray and Beth Glenn, now postdoctoral fellow at Tulane University. Researchers were asked to investigate a link between labor markets and the use of opioids after employers began to ask why no one was applying for job openings.

"We found that opioids have this strong adverse effect on labor force participation, but only a marginally significant effect on the unemployment rate, which leads us to believe that opioids are driving individuals to leave the labor force altogether "said Kessler.

Tennessee is among the states with the highest number of heavy opioid prescribers. On average, providers in Tennessee write 1.4 opiate prescriptions per person per year. At the average prescription dose, this rate is equivalent to prescribing 80 doses of opioids to every man, woman, and child in Tennessee every year.

Researchers emphasize that addressing the opioid epidemic will require considerable funding and a greater focus on treatment therapy. In addition to suppressing the adverse health effects of the epidemic, they said, there are considerable economic gains to be achieved by addressing the central issue of addiction.

"The results suggest that in Tennessee, you could effectively raise residents' income by $ 800 million per year if you reduce opioid use by 10 percent," Harris said.

Other important discoveries include:

* The harmful effect of prescribed opiates on labor markets applies to both rural and non-natural countries.

* Prescribed opioids have the strongest adverse effects in municipalities with higher rates of labor force participation and lower unemployment rates, perhaps suggesting that opioid-related harm has already been done in areas with low labor force participation.

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