Finance and Economics Discussion Series (FEDS)
Choices and Implications when Measuring the Local Supply of Prescription Opioids
Despite the growth in the literature on the opioid crisis, questions remain on how to best measure the local supply of prescription opioids. We document that measures based on the number of prescriptions largely track hydrocodone, while measures based on morphine-equivalent amounts largely track oxycodone. This choice matters, given the well-documented link between oxycodone and the rise in use of illicit opioids such as heroin, plus the fact that oxycodone and hydrocodone (the two most common prescription opioids) are only weakly correlated. We recommend local measures of the supply of opioids should take into account morphine-equivalent amounts, to avoid understating the health and economic consequences of opioid abuse.
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