Long before the emergence of COVID-19, the United States was struggling to contain a years-long opioid crisis that took tens of thousands of lives every year. Now, with Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma still negotiating billion-dollar penalties for its role in the two-decade drug epidemic, experts have begun taking the measure of its impact on student learning.

In a working paper released last November, researchers found persuasive evidence linking fatal overdoses around the country to lower test scores for students in hard-hit counties. The trend is particularly pronounced in rural communities, which have been especially ravaged by the spread of ultra-addictive substances like heroin and fentanyl.

“Vulnerability to the epidemic is critical, and I think this is where schools and institutions can play a bigger role,” Darolia observed. “What’s potentially most concerning about these [heavily affected] counties and districts is that they are both likely to have high exposure, and the kids are likely to have high vulnerability as well. The combination of those things…is worth paying more attention to.”

Read the full article about the opioid crisis by Kevin Mahnken at The 74.