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The effect of state laws designed to prevent nonmedical prescription opioid use on overdose deaths and treatment

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Health Economics

Published online on


Nonmedical use of prescription opioids has reached epidemic levels in the United States and globally. In response, federal, state, and local governments are taking actions to address substantial increases in prescription opioid addiction and its associated harms. This study examines the effect of two state laws specifically designed to curtail access to prescription opioids to nonmedical users: pain management clinic and doctor shopping laws. We use administrative data on overdose deaths and admissions to specialty substance use disorder treatment coupled with a differences‐in‐differences design. Our findings suggest that both pain management clinic and doctor shopping laws have the potential to reduce prescription opioid overdose deaths. Moreover, doctor shopping laws appear to reduce prescription opioid treatment admissions. As many states have adopted these laws in recent years, the full effects of the laws may not yet be realized. Future research using more postlaw passage data should reevaluate the effectiveness of these laws.