The Effects of Naloxone Access Laws on Opioid Abuse, Mortality, and Crime
The United States is experiencing an epidemic of opioid abuse. In response, states have implemented policies including increased access to naloxone, a drug that can save lives when administered during an overdose. There is a concern that widespread naloxone access may unintentionally lead to increased or riskier opioid use by reducing the risk of death from overdose, however. In this paper, we use the staggered timing of state-level naloxone access laws as a natural experiment to measure the effects of broadening access to this lifesaving drug. We find that broadened access led to more opioid-related emergency room visits and more opioid-related theft, with no net measurable reduction in opioid-related mortality. We conclude that naloxone has a clear and important role in harm reduction, yet its ability to combat the opioid epidemic’s death toll may be limited without complementary efforts.