Plant closings and opioid deaths are closely connected

It’s not news that economic displacement is linked with higher death rates among people suffering it – however distressing it remains that our economic system is a virtual engine of displacement, with scant help afforded its victims.

But now a study just published by JAMA Internal Medicine specifically links auto plant closings and opioid overdose mortality rates in surrounding communities –  As stated in the article abstract, the basic finding is painfully clear: “…US manufacturing counties that experienced an automotive assembly plant closure were compared with counties in which automotive plants remained open from 1999 to 2016. Automotive assembly plant closures were associated with a statistically significant increase in county-level opioid overdose mortality rates among adults aged 18 to 65 years…highlighting the potential importance of the role of declining economic opportunity in the US opioid overdose crisis.”

The study is one more piece of evidence documenting how a badly flawed economy generates “diseases of despair” and thereby erodes public health.  Part of a reasoned and compassionate response may indeed be, as the study suggests, more coordinated substance abuse treatment in communities experiencing economic disintegration.  But offering more, and even more effective, intervention is at best a band-aid applied to a gaping wound.



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