Study: Opioid epidemic causes decrease in workforce participation

Study: Opioid epidemic causes decrease in workforce participation

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The opioid impact is affecting more and more people.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee wanted to see just how much the epidemic is affecting the communities we live in.

“We were working to be the first study to understand does opioids cause labor force decrease or is it simply just correlated with it,” said UT Assistant Professor of Economics Matt Harris.

In a first-of-its-kind study on the nationwide opioid epidemic, Harris and with a team of researchers found opioids cause a decrease in workforce participation in all 50 states.

In Tennessee the team found a 10 percent increase in opioid use per capita caused a 0.6 percent decline in labor participation and 0.1 percent incline in unemployment.

“To kind of put that in perspective, our results indicate if prescription opioids were to increase by another 10 percent in Tennessee that would lead to a loss of personal income of about $800 million per year,” Harris said.

That could happen – Harris found there are so many prescriptions of opioids in Tennessee that it equates to almost 1.5 prescriptions per person.

Harris said this study shows how detrimental the drug is to every economy around the country, and he hopes it could help bring some good to communities suffering the most.

“If careful, evidence-driven programs are put in place to reduce opioid dependence and rehabilitate people, there are economic gains to be had from that,” Harris said.

WMC5 reached out to the Shelby County Health Department, who said they do not have local data that tracks the impact of opioids on the workforce.

However, they said as of January 26, 2019, 15 people in the county have died from an opioid overdose.

There have been 80 emergency department visits.

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