The Causal Effect of Drug-Induced Homicide Prosecutions Reported in Media on Drug Overdose Deaths (Kelly Kung -- Boston University)

4:00 pm on Thursday, October 15, 2020
4:30 pm on Thursday, October 15, 2020
Online (Zoom) - Email Mickey Salins ( for more information
With the on-going overdose crisis in the United States, governments have passed many policies in hopes of decreasing drug overdose death rates. Examples of such policies include drug-induced homicide (DIH) laws and prosecutions, whereby those distributing drugs to overdose victims are charged with their deaths. These DIH prosecutions are presented as an overdose prevention measure, but their impact has not been empirically assessed. Using overdose death data from the CDC, we estimate how the risk of unintentional drug overdose deaths in the 50 U.S. states depends on the absence/presence of DIH prosecutions reported by the media between 2000 - 2017. To control for other relevant policy interventions, we use a difference-in-differences-like generalized additive model (GAM), but on a risk ratio scale (since we expect effects to be larger in states with a larger overdose death problem). Time effects are smoothed and can vary by U.S. region. We estimate that having any DIH prosecutions reported by the media is associated with a 7.8% increase (risk ratio of 1.078, 95% CI: (1.066, 1.091)) in unintentional overdose deaths. Further analysis suggests that in the states analyzed, there was a total of approximately 32,347 (95% CI: (27,564, 37,075)) deaths attributable to DIH prosecutions reported in the media in the 50 U.S. states from 2000 - 2017. The analysis suggests that DIH prosecutions may actually aggravate the crisis they are intended to solve.