Understanding the Demographics of the Opioid Overdose Death Crisis

by David Powell

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The United States is enduring the worst drug overdose crisis in its history. Relative to previous overdose epidemics, the opioid crisis is marked by its severity, breadth, and demographics. Some demographic groups have experienced staggering rates of over-dose growth. I examine overdose trends during the opioid crisis relative to historical disparities and evaluate the role of OxyContin's launch in explaining these trends. I use geographic variation in OxyContin's launch to understand the impacts of a large opioid shock on the demographics of the crisis. I find that OxyContin's introduction induced substantial and enduring differences in overdose rates across demographic groups.

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