Boom, Bust, and Drugs Study says economic downturn leads to increase in substance use disorders When the economy tanks, drug abuse goes up.That’s the finding of a new study which shows the state of the economy is closely linked with substance abuse disorder rates for a variety of substances. The study, conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt University, the University of Colorado and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found the use of substances like ecstasy becomes more prevalent during economic downturns. Researchers also found that other drugs like LSD and PCP see increased use only when the economy is strong. But for overall substance use disorders, the findings were clear.
“Problematic use (i.e., substance use disorder) goes up significantly when the economy weakens,” says Christopher Carpenter, one of the lead researchers. “Our results are more limited in telling us why this happens.” Researchers say it’s possible that people turn to substance use as a means of coping with a job loss or other major life changes caused by economic pressures, but their particular study did not pinpoint an exact cause and effect. Not all drugs are equal The study showed that a downward shift in the economy has the biggest impact on painkillers and hallucinogens. Rates of substance abuse disorders were significantly higher for those two categories than any other class of drug.
Researchers also found the change in disorder rates was highest for white adult males, a group which was one of the hardest hit during the Great Recession.They say more research is needed to determine exactly how the economy and drug use are related, but they say the study highlighted some key groups for prevention and treatment workers to target during future economic downturns.
“Problematic use (i.e., substance use disorder) goes up significantly when the economy weakens.” - Christopher Carpenter, Vanderbilt University
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