Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, Opioid Abuse, and Crime

55 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2018

See all articles by Dhaval Dave

Dhaval Dave

Bentley University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) - NY Office

Monica Deza

CUNY Hunter College

Brady Horn

University of New Mexico - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 2018


The past two decades have witnessed a substantial increase in opioid use and abuse in the United States. In response to this opioid epidemic, prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) have been implemented in virtually all states. These programs collect, monitor, and analyze prescription opioid data with the goal of preventing the abuse and diversion of controlled substances. A growing literature has found that voluntary PDMPs, which do not require doctors to access PDMPs before prescribing controlled substances, have had little effect on opioid use and misuse. However, PDMPs that do mandate access have been found to be effective in reducing opioid misuse and other related health outcomes. In this paper we study the broader impact of voluntary and mandatory-access PDMPs on crime, and in the process inform the causal link between prescription opioid abuse and crime. Using information on offenses known to law enforcement and arrests from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), combined with a difference-in-differences empirical strategy, we find that voluntary PDMPs did not significantly affect crime whereas mandatory-access PDMPs have reduced crime by approximately 3.5%. Reductions in crime are largely associated with violent crimes, particularly homicide and assault. Also, we find evidence that young adults experienced the largest decrease in crime, which is consistent with prior work that also finds relatively larger declines in prescription opioid abuse for this group. Overall, these results provide additional evidence that prescription drug monitoring programs are an effective social policy tool to mitigate the negative consequences of opioid misuse, and more broadly indicate that opioid policies can have important spillover effects into other non-health related domains such as crime.

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Suggested Citation

Dave, Dhaval and Deza, Monica and Horn, Brady, Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, Opioid Abuse, and Crime (August 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24975. Available at SSRN:

Dhaval Dave (Contact Author)

Bentley University - Department of Economics ( email )

175 Forest Street
Waltham, MA 02452-4705
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) - NY Office

365 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10016-4309
United States

Monica Deza

CUNY Hunter College ( email )

United States

Brady Horn

University of New Mexico - Department of Economics ( email )

1915 Roma NE/Economics Building
Albuquerque, NM 87131
United States

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