The Link Between Opioids and Unemployment

The Link Between Opioids and Unemployment –  OLGA KHAZAN – Apr 18, 2017

Since 1990, drug overdose deaths have increased by 500 percent.

A new study suggests unemployment might be one of the factors behind that dramatic rise. The paper, published by NBER last week, finds that:

As the unemployment rate increases by one percentage point in a given county,

  • the opioid-death-rate rises by 3.6 percent, and 
  • emergency room visits rise by 7 percent.  

Rather than more people getting injured when jobs are scarce, the authors suspect that the increased use of painkillers is a “physical manifestation of mental-health problems that have long been known to rise during periods of economic decline.”

Depression and pain are twin agonies, in other words: Not only does depression make people more sensitive to pain, they note, opioids have been shown to help relieve depressive symptoms.

This isn’t the only study that has linked joblessness with painkiller use. In another recent paper, the Princeton University labor economist Alan Krueger found that nearly half of “prime age” men who aren’t in the labor force take pain medication daily.

Perhaps their pain is the reason they aren’t in the labor force.

Articles usually forget or ignore that people take opioids for a reason. The opioid dose in NOT an independent variable. For pain patients, opioid dose correlates closely with pain level.

And past studies have found that the unemployed are more likely to use illegal drugs than full-time workers.

These studies lend support to the idea that many opioid overdoses are “deaths of despair,” as the Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton call them—deaths brought on by joblessness, hopelessness, and both physical and emotional pain.

Europeans also suffered joblessness during the recession, but they aren’t overdosing at American levels.

#Our country is being raped by pure unrestrained corporate capitalism. Metrics are only measured by potential profit and social concerns are actively ignored.

Most European countries have stronger social-safety nets, which might soften the trauma of unemployment, as well as socialized health-care systems, in which prescription records tend to be centralized.

In a recent Brookings paper, Case and Deaton are careful to note that pure financial strain doesn’t explain the full “despair deaths” picture. Rather, overdoses, suicides, and alcohol abuse are all driven by what they call “cumulative distress,” or the overall “failure of life to turn out as expected.”

I certainly feel this “cumulative distress”:

First, I was in pain all the time while trying to work in a demanding high-tech job, squirming constantly to find a comfortable position, losing concentration when jabs of pain knifed into me, trying to focus through the haze of a crippling headache, leaving me exhausted from the constant struggle to deal with my pain.

Then, my levels of pain and fatigue grew so extreme I could no longer work. I spent 3 years and thousands of dollars (not pain for by insurance) chasing down any hope of a medical resolution, only to discover that a genetic flaw is the cause of my pain (Ehelrs-Danlos Syndrome).

Then my depression worsened dramatically as I adjusted to being seen as “useless” in the culture of our society. I was in a state of constant despair until I found the inner strength to make peace with my lot in life.

Now I have to live on less than 2% of my previous income and wonder how I will survive on it. (Thank goodness I always saved as much as I could.)



2 thoughts on “The Link Between Opioids and Unemployment

  1. Kathy C

    Thanks Zyp,
    I wish I had more time to respond.There is a pattern here. I have been following Kazan’s articles. She tends to lean to the Psychological explanation that has been contorted to conflate psychological and physical Pain. this is another way they have rewritten the narrative, to remove the underlying physical component. This helps the Industries that are benefiting. there is no research to determine whether this “distress” is due to the inability to get an early diagnosis, before the physical damage is done. That research is inconvenient. There is on way to determine these factors from Billing Codes, or the data that Providers are expected to collect. That is why they are able to write their now story like. There is no data determining how many people with Pain Issues faked anything, yet that is the assumption.
    I suspect that a lot of the people with Chronic Pain are in a sort of Limbo. The first symptoms were dismissed, and attributed to anything but a Physical Cause. Physicians have obscured any tracking of this. There is no requirement that they even record the duration of pain. They avoid that subject, so it is Groundhog Day, each time we see a Physician. The Industries that profit from this did not want the “Big Government” to collect Data. They found so many ways to obscure the facts, and ensure Profitability. The best way was to interfere with the collection to minimize exposure of anything the Industry found inconvenient. In the Era of fake News, the current Data, can be interpreted in a way to increase Profits, facilitate billing, while obscuring facts. By imposing the Psychological Interpretation, they can discredit the people with pain, Market more Pharmaceuticals, ensure repeat business, and explain away any lapses on the part of the Medical Industry. The deaths are now due to a Psychological Issue so we can ignore them, or throw some Pharma Products at them. We are moving away from Science, and facts to opinion, a much more profitable narrative.

    Scientific American Mind, did an Article on Pain. The Distortions are evident, the “Mind Body” connection is stressed in the Article. It is as if we went back in time to Battle Creek, and “Kellogs Cures.” We are Post Science now. Pain is not about an underlying condition or an injury, it is about our “Feelings.”

    I gotta go, my dog is trying to drink our coffee again. He is on a diet.


    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      A coffee diet? :-)

      I believe the increase in drug addiction is due to social misery. If people had good jobs and a chance to improve their lives, they would be much more content and happy. But with the cards stacked against the common man, there’s a feeling of hopelessness, and this is what leads to drug abuse.

      Of course the masses of miserable people will look for at least momentary pleasures – there are no possibilities for much else these days :-(



Other thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s