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Economic Conditions, Illicit Drug Use, and Substance Use Disorders in the United States

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  • Christopher S. Carpenter
  • Chandler B. McClellan
  • Daniel I. Rees

Abstract

We provide the first analysis of the relationship between economic conditions and the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana. Drawing on US data from 2002-2013, we find mixed evidence with regard to the cyclicality of illicit drug use. However, there is strong evidence that economic downturns lead to increases in substance use disorders involving hallucinogens and prescription pain relievers. These effects are robust to a variety of specification choices and are concentrated among prime-age white males with low educational attainment. We conclude that the returns to spending on the treatment of substance use disorders are particularly high during economic downturns.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher S. Carpenter & Chandler B. McClellan & Daniel I. Rees, 2016. "Economic Conditions, Illicit Drug Use, and Substance Use Disorders in the United States," NBER Working Papers 22051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22051
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    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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