The Moral Hazard of Lifesaving Innovations: Naloxone Access, Opioid Abuse, and Crime

85 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2018 Last revised: 3 Apr 2019

See all articles by Jennifer L. Doleac

Jennifer L. Doleac

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics

Anita Mukherjee

University of Wisconsin - Madison - School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 31, 2019

Abstract

The U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of opioid abuse. In response, states have implemented a variety of policies including increased access to naloxone, a drug that can save lives when administered during an overdose. However, widespread naloxone access may lead to increased opioid abuse by reducing the risk of death per use, thereby enabling continued or riskier opioid use. By increasing the demand for opioids, naloxone access may also impact crime, especially theft. In this paper, we use the staggered timing of state-level naloxone access laws as a natural experiment to measure the effects of broadening access to this lifesaving drug. We find that broadened access led to more opioid-related emergency room visits and more opioid-related theft, with no reduction in opioid-related mortality. These effects are driven by urban areas and vary with local access to substance abuse treatment. We find the most detrimental effects in the Midwest, including a 14% increase in opioid-related mortality in that region. While naloxone has great potential as a harm-reduction strategy, our analysis supports the concern that it encourages riskier behaviors with respect to opioid abuse.

JEL Classification: I18, K42, D81

Suggested Citation

Doleac, Jennifer L. and Mukherjee, Anita, The Moral Hazard of Lifesaving Innovations: Naloxone Access, Opioid Abuse, and Crime (March 31, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3135264 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3135264

Jennifer L. Doleac (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics ( email )

5201 University Blvd.
College Station, TX 77843-4228
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jenniferdoleac.com/

Anita Mukherjee

University of Wisconsin - Madison - School of Business ( email )

975 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.anitamukherjee.com

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