The percentage of American men participating in the labor force dropped 3 percentage points between 1999 and 2014, and one economist believes a considerable portion of that drop can be blamed on the opioid epidemic, Fortune reports. The drug crisis has hit certain areas of the country harder than others, so Princeton economist Alan Krueger looked at labor participation rates in those areas and concluded that the increase in opioid prescriptions over the last 15 years could account for as much as 20% of the decline. "Labor force participation has fallen more in areas where relatively more opioid pain medication is prescribed, causing the problem of depressed labor force participation and the opioid crisis to become intertwined," Krueger writes in his study published by the Brookings Institution.
As New York notes, it's possible that dropping out of the labor force prompts men to turn to drugs, rather than the opposite, but the report still seems genuinely troubling. It offers "compelling evidence that America’s painkiller habit isn’t just producing 100 overdose deaths in our country each day, but also impairing our economy’s capacity to grow." The report comes at a dire moment in the country's opioid crisis. 33,000 Americans died in 2015 as a result of the epidemic, and while President Trump declared it a national emergency last month, since then no official paperwork has been released and no new policies have been enacted, the Hill reports. (Read more opioids stories.)