Opioid Use Among Social Security Disability Insurance Applicants
Our study is the first to provide statistics on opioid use among Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants. We use an innovative machine-learning method to identify opioids in open-ended text fields in SSDI administrative data. We find that more than 30% of applicants between 2007 and 2017 reported using one or more opioids, a rate that is about 50% higher than in the general population. Rates of reported opioid use varied over time, peaking at 32% in 2012. Reported opioid use also varied by age, gender, education, receipt of SSI, and across states. There was a positive and statistically significant association between (a) reported opioid use and SSDI awards and (b) reported opioid use SSDI award and death; these are associations and do not demonstrate a causal relationship.