Fight The Urge To Criminalize Opioid Addiction Behaviors

This new post by Rebecca Haffajee appears on the Health Affairs Blog as part of a series stemming from the Fourth Annual Health Law Year in P/Review event held at Harvard Law School on Friday, January 29, 2016.

It’s well known that the U.S. is in the midst of a prescription opioid overdose and abuse epidemic. Adverse outcomes from prescription opioid abuse have dramatically escalated over the past decade and a half, with fatal prescription opioid overdoses roughly quadrupling and emergency department visitsinvolving prescription drugs (mostly opioids) more than doubling.

Outrageous statistics—such as that opioids were involved in almost 29,000 drug overdose deaths in 2014, or that 46 people die from a prescription opioid overdose every day—have less “shock” value now than they did several years ago. Moreover, the opioid crisis has become personal: many (including presidential candidates) have experienced a close friend or family member struggle with addiction. […]

Read the full article here.


Rebecca Haffajee is a Thomas O. Pyle Fellow in Pharmaceutical Policy Research in the Department of Population Medicine at the Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Institute. After completing her JD and MPH at Harvard in 2006, Rebecca practiced as a health care lawyer for several years. She entered the Harvard PhD Program in Health Policy in 2010 with a concentration in Evaluative Science and Statistics. Her dissertation research is focused on the empirical effects of laws and policies on health outcomes, with particular emphases on public health laws and patient safety/quality initiatives. She is currently working on a longitudinal assessment of the impact of mental health parity laws on mental health treatment and outcomes. Rebecca was a Student Fellow at the Petrie-Flom Center in 2010 - 2011. Her research paper was: "Probing the Constitutional Basis for Distracted Driving Laws: Do they Actually Reduce Fatalities?"

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