The quantity of prescribed opioids has quadrupled in the past two decades. De Vaan shows that the diffusion of opioid use within household units has contributed to the proliferation of consumption.
Using 1.5 billion medical claims and 19 million opioid prescriptions in Massachusetts between 2010 and 2015, de Vaan finds that residing in a household in which a different family member fills an opioid prescription more than doubles a focal individual's subsequent likelihood of filling a prescription.
The treatment effect of opioid "exposure" via a family member is driven by an increase in prescriptions for opioids for medical conditions that a family member counterfactually would have experienced, even in the absence of intra-household exposure. The results are consistent with exposed family members adjusting their demand for opioids conditional on being diagnosed with an indication that could conceivably lead to an opioid prescription. We show that this effect is unlikely to be caused by genetic similarities, homophily in mate selection, visits to common physicians, or common health conditions within families. The findings have implications for policy.
Mathijs de Vaan is Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. His research concentrates on health care and examines how social networks shape the actions and behaviors of patients and physicians. His work has been published in scholarly journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Management Science and Research Policy. It has been covered in media outlets such as: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Fiscal Times, and Yahoo! Finance. At Haas, Mathijs teaches a core course, Leading People and co-directs the Health care Analytics Lab (HAL).