Opioid Addiction Is Eating American Men Alive

American men are leaving the labor force – and for a shocking reason.

A new study suggests that the massive increase in opioid use by American men may be responsible for as much as 20 percent of the decline in their participation in the U.S. workforce.

“The opioid crisis and depressed labor-force participation are now intertwined in many parts of the U.S.,” Alan Krueger, who was chief economist at the Treasury Department in the Obama administration, wrote in the study released Thursday at a Brookings Institution conference in Washington.

The study is titled “Where Have All the Workers Gone? An Inquiry into the Decline of the U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate,” and it is shocking.

The study linked county prescription rates of opioids with data from the past 15 years. The conclusion: regional differences in prescription rates are due to variations in medical practices – not health conditions. Nearly half of all men who are in their prime worker ages but not in the labor force take prescription opiate pain killers every day. Bloomberg writes:

Krueger’s study echoes previous research that attributes most of the decline in labor force participation since the early 2000s to an aging population and young people choosing school over work. The opioid crisis is exacerbating the problem, Krueger wrote.

“Addressing the decades-long slide in labor force participation by prime-age men should be a national priority,” he wrote […]

“I do think it is related to declining labor-force participation among prime-age workers,” Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said in a July Senate hearing when asked about the crisis. “I don’t know if it’s causal or if it’s a symptom of long-running economic maladies that have affected these communities and particularly affected workers who have seen their job opportunities decline.”

For women, the numbers are down, but not quite so much. Women either are able to function better while taking opioids, or for other factors, they don’t take opioids at the same rate that men do.

From the study:

J.D. Vance warns that, “An epidemic of prescription drug addiction has taken root.” Many alarming statistics bear out his fear. According to the CDC, sales of prescription opioid medication per capita increased by 356 percent from 1999 to 2015.

More than one in five individuals insured by Blue Cross and Blue Shield received an opioid prescription in 2015.Enough opioid medication is dispensed annually to keep every man, woman and child on painkillers for a month (Doctor and Menchine, 2017). The number of deaths from opioid overdoses quadrupled from 1999 to 2015. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdose, more than double the number murdered in homicides. An estimated one in every 550 patients who started on opioid therapy died from an opioid-related cause, with the median fatality occurring within 2.6 years of the initial prescription.

Fully 44 percent of Medicare recipients under age 65 were prescribed opioid medication in 2011. And despite the rapid diffusion of opioid medication in the U.S., there is little evidence showing that opioid treatment is efficacious in reducing pain or improving functionality. In fact, Frieden and Houry note that “several studies have showed that use of opioids for chronic pain may actually worsen pain and functioning, possibly by potentiating pain perception.”

This is terrifying. We have an entire generation of hard-working American men who are being eaten alive by the scourge of opiate addition. This is a national emergency and it needs to be tackled now.

Do you or someone you care about suffer from opioid addition? How does it affect their life? Sound off below with your experience or opinion.