Please join us for a colloquium being given by Mathijs De Vaan, Assistant Professor at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.
The diffusion of opioids in family households
The quantity of prescribed opioids has quadrupled in the past two decades. We show that the diffusion of opioid use within household units has contributed to the proliferation of consumption. Using 1.5 billion medical claims and 19 million opioid prescriptions in Massachusetts between 2010 and 2015, we find that residing in a household in which a different family member fills an opioid prescription substantially increases a focal individual's subsequent likelihood of filling a prescription. The treatment effect of opioid "exposure" via a family member is driven by an increase in prescriptions for opioids for medical conditions that a family member counterfactually would have experienced, even in the absence of intra-household exposure. The results are consistent with exposed family members adjusting their demand for opioidsconditional on being diagnosed with an indication that could conceivably lead to an opioid prescription. We show that this effect is unlikely to be caused by genetic similarities, homophily in mate selection, visits to common physicians, or common health conditions within families. The findings have implications for policy.