Research and Economic Development, Office of


Date of this Version

Spring 4-12-2022

Document Type



Cheek, Z.W. (2022, April 12). The impact of Afghan opium cultivation on the U.S. opioid epidemic. Nebraska Research Days, Lincoln, NE, United States.


Copyright © 2022 Zachary Wahab Cheek


I argue here that increases in Afghan opium cultivation, the most prolific in the world, has depressed American prescription opioid and heroin prices, thereby increasing abuse risk in U.S. addict populations and increasing death rates. Utilizing a two-stage regression model with a sparse dataset from several national and international sources, I find evidence that a one percent increase in Afghan opium production is associated with a 0.122 percent increase in prescription opioid overdose deaths, and a 0.367 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths. Assessing the 2001-2002 Taliban opium ban with an identification strategy, I find that in this timeframe prescription opioids were 23.8% more expensive. Implications are discussed, and counterfactuals considered.