Study Shows Drug Decriminalization Does Not Increase Overdose-Related Deaths

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A recent study detailed how drug decriminalization did not increase the risk of overdose-related deaths.

Conducted by Oregon and Washington, a recent study showed how drug decriminalization was not an instigator in overdose-related deaths (1). Drug policy reform has become a hot topic throughout the US. States such as Washington and Oregon have either fully or partially decriminalized drug possession. The study looked at an overview on overdose-related deaths, one-year post-implementation. Results showed that previous thoughts that the two may be connected were proven wrong.

In February 2021, Oregon enacted Measure 110. This showed that the state was suffering from a significant drug problem and that the state needed to expand access for drug treatment (2). Washington also experienced a State Supreme Court decision with the State v. Blake which stated that their felony drug possession law was considered unconstitutional (3).


MyCannabis mentioned that the study detailed (1):

  • In Oregon, following the enactment of Measure 110 on February 1, 2021, there was no statistically significant increase in overdose-related deaths compared to its synthetic control.
  • The average rate difference post-Measure 110 in Oregon was just 0.268 fatal drug overdoses per 100,000 state population, showing minimal change.
  • Similarly, in Washington, after the Washington Supreme Court decision in State v. Blake on February 25, 2021, there was no statistically significant rise in overdose-related deaths compared to its synthetic control.
  • The average rate difference post-Blake in Washington was merely 0.112 fatal drug overdoses per 100,000 state population, indicating a minimal shift.

Through the study’s findings, it shows the impact drug decriminalization can have on public health, as well as the need for further discussion on drug policy reform. An important note to take on this research is to remember that the data was only reviewing 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) are hopeful that research such as the study from Oregon and Washington, will bring about new data and legislation which will benefit those incarcerated, as well as public health.


  1. Kariuki, L. Decriminalization of Drugs Did Not Result in Increased Overdose-Related Deaths: New Study Finds (accessed Oct 6, 2023).
  2. Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (Measure 110) (accessed Oct 6, 2023).
  3. State v. Blake Refunds,State%20v.,felony%20drug%20possession%20law%20unconstitutional. (accessed Oct 6, 2023).