A new study concludes economic downturns lead to an increase in substance use disorders involving prescription pain relievers and hallucinogens. The connection is strongest among middle-aged white males with low levels of education.
The researchers studied the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and its potential impact on substance use, The Wall Street Journal reports. They find “clear evidence that substance-use disorders involving analgesics and hallucinogens are both strongly countercyclical,” meaning that such drug use increases when the economy falters.
The relationship between unemployment and painkiller abuse is especially strong among people who work in sales and service occupations, the researchers wrote in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. They found in fields such as construction, maintenance, machine operators, transportation workers and the armed forces, heroin use was strongly countercyclical.