FEDS Paper: Choices and Implications when Measuring the Local Supply of Prescription Opioids

Federal Reserve News for Investors and Traders

November 2022

AnneMarie Bryson, David Cho, Daniel Garcia, Alvaro Mezza, and Joshua Montes


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.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2022.078

PDF: Full Paper

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Last Update: November 22, 2022

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