Eliminate Paraphernalia Laws to Reduce Overdose Deaths

By Jeffrey Singer — Jul 01, 2022
Cato Institute's Dr. Jeffrey Singer (also an ACSH advisor) published an opinion piece in The Detroit News arguing that laws that restrict drug paraphernalia do more harm than good. "If states want to get serious about reducing the risk of harm from using illegal drugs, lawmakers should repeal their drug paraphernalia laws." We couldn't agree more. Harm reduction is one of the central tenets of ACSH.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported a devastating 108,000 overdose deaths in 2021. Despite more than 10 years of successful efforts to reduce opioid prescribing, the overdose death rate, which began its exponential rise in the late 1970s long before opioids were liberally prescribed, continues its incessant climb.

In contrast, Germany, second only to the U.S. in opioid prescribing, has not seen overdoses go up this century. And Canada, ranked third in opioid prescribing, has an overdose rate more than a third lower than the U.S. One reason is that both countries have long embraced harm-reduction strategies toward drug abuse.

Harm-reduction strategies avoid measures that exacerbate the harms the black market inflicts on nonmedical users and focuses strictly on the goal of reducing the spread of disease and death from drug use. From Surgeon General Jerome Adams in the Trump administration to Rahul Gupta, the Biden administration’s “Drug Czar,” policymakers have begun to appreciate and promote harm reduction. But state-level drug paraphernalia laws stand in the way.

# Reprinted with permission. Dr. Singer's piece can be read in its entirety here