Getting the Drugs

Kevin Lewis

October 11, 2020

Millennials and the alcohol industry: Expenditure variations among generations
Anthony Murray
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming


This paper explores the relationship age cohorts, or generations, have had with regards to alcohol expenditure over time. Articles from popular publications claim Millennials are ‘killing’ the alcohol industry due to their lack of consumption, but provide little empirical analysis of any academic rigour to make such claims. These claims do matter, as they have implications for the alcohol industry itself as well as investors and policymakers. This paper uses four cross-sectional decadal datasets spanning from 1986 to 2016 from the Bureau of Labour Statistics Consumer Expenditure Interview Survey (CEX) to determine the validity of these claims, while controlling for factors such as income, expenditures, and demographics. The question being explored is, ceteris paribus, does the Millennial generational expenditure on alcohol differ from previous generations? Left-censored Tobit I models indicate that Millennials spend more on alcohol than previous generations, contradicting the claims of these articles. Following the regression analysis is a discussion of the results and their implications.

Is the Rise in Illicit Opioids Affecting Labor Supply and Disability Claiming Rates?
Sujeong Park & David Powell
NBER Working Paper, September 2020


There is considerable interest in understanding the broader effects of the opioid crisis on labor supply and social insurance programs in the United States. This paper examines how the recent transition of the opioid crisis from prescription opioids to more prevalent misuse of illicit opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl, altered labor supply behavior and disability insurance claiming rates. We exploit differential geographic exposure to the reformulation of OxyContin, the largest reduction in access to abusable prescription opioids to date, to study the effects of substitution to illicit markets. We observe meaningful reductions in labor supply measured in terms of employment-to-population ratios, hours worked, and earnings. We also find significant increases in disability applications and beneficiaries. These labor supply and disability insurance shifts begin immediately after reformulation and are uniquely associated with pre-reformulation rates of OxyContin misuse, not rates of broader pain reliever misuse.

U.S. Military Veteran Versus Nonveteran Use of Licit and Illicit Substances
Israel Agaku, Satomi Odani & Jantel Nelson
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forthcoming

Methods: Pooled data were from the 2015–2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative, self-reported survey of the U.S. adult non-institutionalized population. Military veterans were those who had “ever been in the United States Armed Forces” and were “now separated/retired from reserves/active duty” (n=7,301). Nonveterans were those who had never been in the U.S. Armed forces (n=121,366). Age- and gender-stratified weighted prevalence estimates were calculated and compared with chi-square tests. All analyses were conducted in 2019.

Results: Illicit substance use, including marijuana and cocaine, was generally lower among veterans than nonveterans, whereas use of licit substances such as tobacco and alcohol was higher among veterans than nonveterans. The most commonly used substances among veterans were tobacco and alcohol. Among male participants aged 18–25 years, 59.8% of veterans reported past-12-month cigarette/cigar smoking (vs 46.6% of nonveterans), whereas 17.6% reported heavy drinking (vs 12.2% of nonveterans). For both cigarette/cigar smoking and binge drinking, there was a marked narrowing of the male–female gap in prevalence with increasing age among veterans. Female veterans aged 18–25 years reported significantly higher opioid use than their nonveteran counterparts (54.7% vs 35.0%); they also had the highest prevalence of opioid misuse (15.3%) than any other group.

The Relationship of Opioid Prescriptions and the Educational Performance of Children
Chad Cotti, John Gordanier & Orgul Ozturk
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming


One of the more salient aspects of the opioid crisis in America has been the disparate impact it has had on communities. This paper considers the possibility that opioid abuse might have negative spillovers onto student performance in schools within the communities most affected. We use administrative data on individual children’s test scores (grades 3 through 8) in South Carolina from the 2005-06 to 2016-17 academic years. These data are then linked to county-level changes in opioid prescriptions rates. Findings show that an increase in the opioid prescription rate in a county is associated with a statistically significant reduction in white student test scores, but no such decline was found among non-white students. This relationship is robust to controls for changing county-level economic conditions, time-varying controls for student-level poverty, county characteristics, and county time trends. Among white students, the association is strongest among rural students in households that are not receiving SNAP or TANF benefits. Given the importance of educational attainment, this reduction in test scores associated with high rates of opioid prescriptions may indicate that there will be long-lasting spillover effects of the opioid crisis.

Lyophilized Kratom Tea as a Therapeutic Option for Opioid Dependence
Lisa Wilson et al.
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, forthcoming

Background: Made as a tea, the Thai traditional drug “kratom” reportedly possesses pharmacological actions that include both a coca-like stimulant effect and opium-like depressant effect. Kratom has been used as a substitute for opium in physically-dependent subjects. The objective of this study was to evaluate the antinociception, somatic and physical dependence produced by kratom tea, and then assess if the tea ameliorated withdrawal in opioid physically-dependent subjects.

Methods: Lyophilized kratom tea (LKT) was evaluated in C57BL/6 J and opioid receptor knockout mice after oral administration. Antinociceptive activity was measured in the 55 °C warm-water tail-withdrawal assay. Potential locomotor impairment, respiratory depression and locomotor hyperlocomotion, and place preference induced by oral LKT were assessed in the rotarod, Comprehensive Lab Animal Monitoring System, and conditioned place preference assays, respectively. Naloxone-precipitated withdrawal was used to determine potential physical dependence in mice repeatedly treated with saline or escalating doses of morphine or LKT, and LKT amelioration of morphine withdrawal. Data were analyzed using one- and two-way ANOVA.

Results: Oral administration of LKT resulted in dose-dependent antinociception (≥1 g/kg, p.o.) absent in mice lacking the mu-opioid receptor (MOR) and reduced in mice lacking the kappa-opioid receptor. These doses of LKT did not alter coordinated locomotion or induce conditioned place preference, and only briefly reduced respiration. Repeated administration of LKT did not produce physical dependence, but significantly decreased naloxone-precipitated withdrawal in morphine dependent mice.

Conclusions: The present study confirms the MOR agonist activity and therapeutic effect of LKT for the treatment of pain and opioid physical dependence.


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