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Abstract:

We examine how deaths and emergency department (ED) visits related to use of opioid analgesics (opioids) and other drugs vary with macroeconomic conditions. As the county unemployment rate increases by one percentage point, the opioid death rate per 100,000 rises by 0.19 (3.6%) and the opioid overdose ED visit rate per 100,000 increases by 0.95 (7.0%). Macroeconomic shocks also increase the overall drug death rate, but this increase is driven by rising opioid deaths. Our findings hold when performing a state-level analysis, rather than county-level; are primarily driven by adverse events among whites; and are stable across time periods.

Professor Christopher J. Ruhm

Biography:

Christopher J. Ruhm is Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of Virginia. He received his doctorate in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984. Prior to joining UVA, in 2010, he held faculty positions at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Boston University, and was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Brandeis University. During the 1996-97 academic year he served as Senior Economist on President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, where his main responsibilities were in the areas of health policy, aging and labor market issues. He is currently a Research Associate in the Health Economics, Health Care Policy, and Children’s Programs of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany. 

Professor Ruhm’s recent research has focused on examining how various aspects of health are produced – including the rise in obesity and relationship between macroeconomic conditions and health – and on the role of government policies in helping parents with young children balance the competing needs of work and family life. His earlier research includes study of the determinants of health and risky behaviors, effects of job displacements and mandated employment benefits, transition into retirement, and the causes and consequences of alcohol and illegal drug policies. 

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