The opioid epidemic – Healthcare Economist

epidemic. noun

  1. a disease outbreak that spreads rapidly and affects many individuals at the same time: an epidemic disease outbreak
  2. an outbreak or product of rapid spread, sudden growth or development

The opioid epidemic has affected a large number of Americans. Data from 2019 shows that there were more 15,500 deaths in 2019 from opioids. Many epidemics are contagious in nature because they are transmitted from one person to another. Could this type of contagious disease model also apply to the opioid epidemic?

According to an NBER article by Adamopoulou et al. (2024) The answer is yes’. When a person has a friend who uses opioids, that person is much more likely to use opioids.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health), the focus is on adults ages 25 to 34 and their best friends from high school. An instrumental variable technique is used to estimate peer effects on opioid misuse. Serious injuries sustained in the past year are used as an instrument for opioid misuse to estimate the causal impact of someone’s opioid misuse on the likelihood that her best friends will also misuse opioids. The estimated peer effects are significant: Having a best friend with a reported serious injury in the previous year increases the likelihood of opioid abuse by about 7 percentage points in a population where 17 percent ever misuse opioids. . The effect is driven by people without a college degree and those who live in the same county as their best friends.

The complete working document is here. hat tip for Marginal revolution.

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