A recent study explained how drug decriminalization did not increase the risk of overdose-related deaths.
Led by Oregon and Washington, a recent study showed that drug decriminalization was not an incentive for overdose-related deaths (1). Drug policy reform has become a hot topic in the United States. States like Washington and Oregon have fully or partially decriminalized drug possession. The study looked at a snapshot of overdose-related deaths one year after implementation. The results showed that previous ideas that the two might be linked were proven wrong.
In February 2021, Oregon passed Measure 110. This showed that the state had a significant drug problem and needed to expand access to drug treatment (2). Washington also saw a State Supreme Court decision in State v. Blake, who declared that their drug possession law was considered unconstitutional (3).
MyCannabis mentioned that the study detailed (1):
- In Oregon, after the passage of Measure 110 on February 1, 2021, there was no statistically significant increase in overdose-related deaths compared to the synthetic control.
- The average rate difference after Measure 110 in Oregon was only 0.268 fatal drug overdoses per 100,000 state residents, showing minimal change.
- Likewise, in Washington, after the Washington Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Blake on February 25, 2021, there was no statistically significant increase in overdose-related deaths compared to the synthetic control.
- The average rate difference after Blake in Washington was only 0.112 fatal drug overdoses per 100,000 state residents, indicating minimal change.
Through the study’s findings, it shows the impact that drug decriminalization can have on public health, as well as the need for continued discussions on drug policy reform. It is important to note in this research that the data only examines the short-term effects of decriminalization and that further investigation into the medium- and long-term effects needs to be explored. Drug reform advocates (1) hope that research like that in Oregon and Washington will yield new data and legislation that will benefit incarcerated people as well as public health.
- Kariuki, L. Drug decriminalization did not lead to increase in overdose-related deaths: new study finds https://www.mycannabis.com/decriminalization-of-drugs-did-not-result-in-increased-overdose-rated-deaths-new-study-finds/. (accessed October 6, 2023).
- Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery Act (Measure 110) https://www.oregon.gov/oha/hsd/amh/pages/measure110.aspx. (accessed October 6, 2023).
- State vs. Blake Reimbursements https://snohomishcountywa.gov/6065/State-v-Blake-Refunds#:~:text=Blake%3F-,State%20v.,felony%20drug%20possession%20law%20unconstitutional. (accessed October 6, 2023).