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Teaching Drugs: Incorporating Drug Policy into Law School Curriculum, 2021–2022 Cannabis Curriculum Survey Update
Abstract Summary

The landscape of cannabis prohibition has changed dramatically in the last decade with a larger and larger number of states legalizing cannabis for medical or adult-use. These new regimes present a complex legal environment for businesses and legal professionals given the individualized character of each state’s program and long-standing federal prohibition. Yet, few law schools appear to have addressed this challenging and ever-shifting legal area by offering courses on cannabis law and policy. This report is the result of the fourth annual survey of law school curriculum focusing on courses on cannabis law offered by accredited law schools in the United States. The survey confirms that law schools are adjusting very slowly to the new legal environment of cannabis, with very few offering courses on cannabis law, including law schools located in states that have legalized adult-use cannabis.

Report
Dealing in Lives: Imposition of Federal Life Sentences for Drugs from 1990–2020
Abstract Summary

The “tough on crime” era of the 1980s and 1990s ushered in a growing reliance on prisons, the ratcheting up of sentence lengths, and a broader expansion of the criminal justice system. Life sentences, historically rarely imposed, became increasingly commonplace in the 1980s through the 2000s, contributing to the ballooning imprisoned population. While there are growing concerns about the increased use of life sentences in the United States, there has been limited empirical study of these sentences. This report seeks to fill this gap with a particular focus on the federal sentencing system and the imposition of life sentences for drug offenses. Specifically, the current report documents federal life sentences imposed for drug trafficking over the last three decades, taking a closer look at the defendant and case-specific characteristics, and providing a descriptive account of the factors that are associated with those sentenced to life in prison in federal courts.

Report
Broader Implications of Eliminating FDA Jurisdiction Over Execution Drugs
Abstract Summary

This piece was authored by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center's Patricia J. Zettler, associate professor at the Moritz College of Law and Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Ohio State University and Seema K. Shah of the Feinberg Medical School and Pritzker School of Law (by courtesy), Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, and Lurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago. The piece appears in the American Journal of Public Health.

Report
Perceptions of Psychoactive Drugs Among Psychiatrists in the United States: The Impact of National Drug Policy
Abstract Summary

This paper is authored by DEPC 2020-21 Drug Policy Grant recipients Alan K Davis, PhD, Assistant Professor, College of Social Work, Adam Levin, MD, PGY-1 Psychiatry Resident, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health, College of Medicine, and Paul Nagib, BS, Medical Student, College of Medicine, at The Ohio State University.

The American Psychiatric Association has a long history of advocating for evidence-based policy changes related to psychoactive drugs. Given this precedent, addressing the contradictions in the current drug schedule represents an ideal area of advocacy for psychiatrists. However, no prior studies have directly explored psychiatrists’ attitudes about drug scheduling and the effects of a drug’s schedule on their beliefs about drug harms, benefits, or clinical care. This project aims to conduct a survey of psychiatrists to: 1) examine whether psychiatrists’ perceptions about the acceptability, potential harms and therapeutic benefits of different psychoactive drugs differ as a function of the drug's schedule in the US, and 2) explore perspectives about the impact of drug policies on psychiatry training and psychiatrists’ attitudes/beliefs about psychoactive drugs. Elucidating psychiatrists’ perceptions and attitudes in these two areas would represent a critical first step in building consensus among psychiatrists towards advocating for a more coherent and scientifically grounded drug policy.

Report
Reprioritizing Responsibilities: Examining How Colliding Epidemics Impact First Responders
Abstract Summary

This paper is authored by DEPC 2019–20 Drug Policy Grant recipients Andrea M. Headley, PhD, Georgetown University, Christa Remington, PhD, University of South Florida, Kaila Witkowski, Florida International University, Santina Contreras, PhD, University of Southern California, and N. Emel Ganapati, PhD, Florida International University.

There is relatively little scholarly attention paid to the impact of public health emergencies on first responders and their work, let alone when diverse epidemics collide and present different (and potentially even conflicting) work-related demands. Understanding these impacts is essential in order to inform how first response agencies can mitigate potential adverse effects on their workers, build workforce resilience in the short- and long-term, and more effectively respond to both opioid abuse and other future health epidemics. The proposed research focuses on these impacts, specifically: (1) the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the response to the opioid epidemic; (2) changes in first responders’ perceived and actual work and responsibilities as a result of responding to two colliding epidemics; and, (2) the impact on first responders’ coping mechanisms including substance use and abuse as well as burnout and stress.

Report
The impact of national drug policies on the acceptability and availability of non-abstinent treatment interventions among clinical social workers in the United States
Abstract Summary

This paper is authored by DEPC 2019–20 Drug Policy Grant recipients Alan K. Davis, PhD, Assistant Professor and Yitong Xin, MBA, MSW, PhD candidate, College of Social Work, The Ohio State University.

Given that social workers comprise a large proportion of providers in the SUD treatment field, they are in prime positions to provide non-abstinence interventions and to advocate for changes in SUD treatment agencies’ practices and national/local drug policies. However, it is unclear to what extent social workers’ training, and their attitudes and beliefs about drug use, have been affected by national drug policies and whether their beliefs have influenced their willingness to provide non-abstinence interventions or advocate for changes to these policies. This project aims to use an internet-based survey to gain a better understanding of the attitudes and beliefs among social workers to help inform educational and training needs in the social work profession and help support short- and long-term changes in treatment settings. Data from this study will be used as pilot data for a larger grant submission that aims to develop a training/education intervention to help social workers understand the influence of national drug policies on clinical practices and to address this influence in learning the skills needed to use non-abstinence interventions in SUD treatment.

Report
Crime and the opioid epidemic: a mixed-methods examination of changing communities and criminal justice contact
Abstract Summary

This paper is authored by DEPC 2019–20 Drug Policy Grant recipient Eric LaPlant, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Sociology, The Ohio State University.

In 2016, opioid-related overdose deaths accounted for over two-thirds of all poisonings in the United States, representing the largest share of deaths attributed to the drugs in our country’s history. While the public health impact of the opioid epidemic is well-known, the economic ramifications are also substantial. It has been estimated that the annual value of the lives lost to opioid deaths is $504 billion, representing 2.8 percent of our GDP. Further, the increase in opioid-related policing and incarceration places substantial burden on criminal justice entities that are already under pressure to reduce spending. In response to this far-reaching issue, policymakers have sought to limit illicit opioid use in hopes of reducing the number of opioid overdose deaths. However, research has done little to investigate the underlying factors influencing continual increases in overdose deaths, limiting policymakers’ ability to develop targeted solutions capable of effecting change. Criminology theory has demonstrated the importance of economic factors, such as employment, inequality, and perceptions of success, as they relate to the likelihood of criminal activity; however, research has yet to utilize these theoretical frameworks to study the opioid epidemic. In this study, I draw on these concepts to formulate hypotheses that examine how changing economic conditions, especially signals of economic decline, have influenced counties’ opioid overdose death rates.

Event Recordings

Prioritizing Science Over Fear: An Interdisciplinary Response to Fentanyl Analogues

Drug Enforcement and Policy Center hosted this virtual symposium on March 16, 2021. The symposium aimed to educate advocates, congressional staff, administration officials, and scholars about the possibility that classwide scheduling of fentanyl analogues will yield unintended consequences, and to highlight evidence-based alternatives that can help reduce overdose deaths. More information at https://u.osu.edu/fentanylanalogues/.

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