Media coverage of the opioid epidemic in the US has often mentioned the link between addiction and unemployment. Many states that have seen a sharp rise in unemployment in recent years have also had the highest rate of overdose deaths, with West Virginia and Ohio leading the nation. Are addiction and unemployment actually related, or are they just two negative trends that accompany a basket of socioeconomic ills? There does appear to be some evidence that unemployment and addiction are related. One study from 2017 found that every time unemployment rises by one percentage point in a given county, the rate of opioid deaths increases by 3.6 percent and the rate of emergency room visits increases by seven percent. The authors of that study suspect that the emergency room visits are related to physical manifestations of mental health issues. It is well established, for example, that depression makes people more sensitive to pain and that opioid painkillers can help relieve the symptoms of depression. Addiction also makes people more prone to accidents and suicide attempts, which also frequently end up in emergency rooms. Some of those emergency room visits are no doubt by people who lost their health insurance along with their jobs and have no other option for medical care. The connection between unemployment and depression is especially important. The longer someone is unemployed, the more likely he is to be depressed. Someone who has been unemployed for at least a year is about twice as likely to be depressed as someone who has been unemployed only five weeks or less. And someone who is employed full time is about half as likely to be depressed as the recently unemployed. That suggests unemployment may actually cause depression, a major risk factor for addiction. Interestingly, people who have been unemployed for a while are also about twice as likely to have a substance use issue as people who are employed full time. For both depression and addiction, causation likely runs both ways. If you are struggling with either addiction or major depression, it’s harder to keep a job. What’s more, in physically demanding jobs with high risk of injury, both addiction and unemployment might be caused by a serious workplace injury. These kinds of jobs, especially in mining, timbering, and heavy industry, are common in the areas with the highest rates of overdose deaths.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.