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Home | Events | Rational Self-Medication
Seminar

Rational Self-Medication


  • Series
  • Speaker(s)
    Michael Darden (John Hopkins University, United States)
  • Field
    Empirical Microeconomics
  • Location
    Online
  • Date and time

    February 01, 2021
    16:00 - 17:00

We develop a theory of rational self-medication. The idea is that forward-looking individuals, lacking access to better treatment options, attempt to manage the symptoms of mental and physical pain outside of formal medical care. They use substances that relieve symptoms in the short run but that may be harmful in the long run. For example, heavy drinking could alleviate current symptoms of depression but could also exacerbate future depression or lead to alcoholism. Rational self-medication suggests that, when presented with a safer, more effective treatment, individuals will substitute towards it. To investigate, we use forty years of longitudinal data from the Framingham Heart Study and leverage the exogenous introduction of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). We demonstrate an economically meaningful, arguably causal reduction in alcohol consumption when SSRIs became available. Additionally, we show that addiction to alcohol inhibits substitution. Our results suggest a role for rational self-medication in understanding the origin of substance abuse. Furthermore, our work suggests that punitive policies targeting substance abuse may backfire, leading to substitution towards even more harmful substances to self-medicate. In contrast, policies promoting medical innovation that provide safer treatment options could obviate the need to self-medicate with dangerous or addictive substances. More broadly, our findings illustrate how the effects of medical innovation operate in part through behavior changes that are not measured in clinical trials.


Some information and suggestions:

• If you want to attend this online seminar, you need to register here. You will then receive the details of the zoom session by email.

• Your microphone will be on mute upon joining the meeting, please leave it like that and unmute it only if you want to ask a question.

• Asking questions: please just go ahead and ask questions in the “usual way” (ie, don’t use the chat unless you want to notify the host of any problem related to seminar).

• Please use the registration form also to register for a Zoom bilateral on the day of the seminar. Deadline for requesting a bilateral is Thursday 28 Jan at 09:00.