Opioids and Organs: How Overdoses Affect the Supply and Demand for Organ Transplants
52 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2021 Last revised: 27 Sep 2021
Date Written: June 9, 2021
As the incidence of fatal drug overdose has quadrupled in the U.S. in the past two decades, patients awaiting organ transplants may be unintended beneficiaries. We use Vital Statistics mortality data, merged with data on the universe of transplant candidates and recipients in the U.S. from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, to study the extent to which the growth in opioid-related deaths affects the supply of deceased organ donors and transplants. Using two separate identification strategies, we find that opioid-related deaths led to more than 22,000 organ transplants in the U.S. between 2008 and 2018. Although we detect little evidence of demand responses to opioid-induced organ supply shocks, we find that transplant centers are increasingly recovering organs from overdose victims for transplant, with the association between opioid-related deaths and organ donors more than doubling between 2008 and 2018. We also present evidence that transplant candidates appear to be more willing to use organs from those who died of opioid-related causes when organ shortages are relatively severe.
Keywords: organ donation, transplantation, opioid epidemic
JEL Classification: I11, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation