The Opioid Crisis And The Dwindling American Workforce

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Axios reports that a study by Princeton professor Alan Kruger found some very interesting facts about the opioid epidemic. And contrary to what Donald Trump has to say, the epidemic is not due to hordes of immigrants breaching our shores.

Kruger conducted a county-by-county study and correlated opioid use and low labor force participation in men 25-54 years old. He found that Mississippi has 10 of the top 25 counties on the list, followed by six in Arkansas and four each in North Carolina and Alabama.

A list of the top 10 counties:

  1. Stone County, Miss.
  2. Marion County, Miss.
  3. Sebastian County, Ark.
  4. Boone County, Ark.
  5. Crawford County, Ark.
  6. Clarke County, Miss.
  7. Forrest County, Miss.
  8. Columbus County, N.C.
  9. Scotland County, N.C.
  10. Surry County, N.C.

The number of men between the ages of 25-54 who are either working or looking for work has historically stayed above 90%. The rate started falling around 1970, but never below the 90 percent marker until the economic crash in 2008. As of last month, the rate fell to 88.4 percent. However, Kruger’s findings show that opioid addiction and not the crash is responsible for the dip.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

  • 47 percent of the men interviewed take pain medication daily and, of those, about two thirds reported that the medication was prescribed by a physician. He adds, “And those figures likely understate the actual proportion of men taking prescription pain medication, given the stigma and legal risk associated with reporting taking narcotics.”
  • 40 percent of those taking medication to alleviate pain say that pain prevents them from working full-time jobs for which they are qualified.
  • 43 percent say their health is fair or poor. Only 12 percent of working men and 16 percent of unemployed men who are looking for work characterize their health in those terms.
  • Walking, climbing stairs, concentrating, memory, and decision-making are their most common reported ailments.
  • Those who experience difficulty dressing, running errands, walking or concentrating have lower workforce participation than people who are blind or deaf.

Kruger sums up his findings thusly: “The opioid crisis and depressed labor force participation are now intertwined in many parts of the United States. Addressing the opioid crisis could help support efforts to raise workforce participation and prevent it from falling further.”

In other words, make an effort to stop the proliferation of opioid prescriptions, which doctors hand out like candy these days. This is a man-made crisis, and the pharmaceutical companies have profited mightily from it. First, for the pain medication, which, going by the evidence above, doesn’t always alleviate pain. Second, by then addressing the side effects of those medications with more pharmaceuticals. We are all too familiar by now with those ads for opioid induced constipation.

It has been a month since Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis to be a national emergency; however, so far, there has been no formal plan presented to let the American people know what the Trump administration plans to do.

Looks like another one of those “I’ll have an announcement in two weeks” punts so favored by a president who has no idea what he’s doing and cares even less for the welfare of the people and the country under his charge.

Ann Werner is the author of thrillers and other things. Show her some love and check out her books!

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Ann Werner

Ann Werner

Ann Werner is a blogger and the author of CRAZY and Dreams and Nightmares. You can view her work at

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Ann Werner