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The Mediating Impact of Punitive Heroin Laws on Naloxone Access Laws and Opioid Overdose Fatalities

Wed, Nov 13, 2:00 to 3:20pm, Sierra I, 5th Level


My research contributes to the literature by examining how punitiveness of state drug laws impacts Naloxone Access Laws’ (NALs) effect on opioid overdose fatalities overtime. All states champion NALs as a way to increase access to the life-saving opioid reversal drug, naloxone; yet, they still enforce harsh laws for minor heroin possession. Though prior research has examined the impact of NALs and opioid overdose fatalities, there is a gap in knowledge of what role punitive heroin laws play in this relationship. To confront this gap in the literature, my research will examine if punitiveness of heroin possession laws mediate the impact of state NALs on opioid overdoses fatalities overtime. To conduct this analysis, I use state overdose deaths from the CDC National Vital Statistic Service, state sanctions for heroin possession from each state’s annotated code, and naloxone access laws from the Prescription Drug Abuse Policy System from 1999 to 2017. Deterrence theory guides this research, as harsher heroin possession laws should increase the fear of arrest among injection drug users thus, reducing calls for help. The results from my research will discuss whether less punitive laws for heroin possession can help decrease overdose fatalities and bolster the effects of NALs.