Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)


The Impact of Criminal Policy on Drug Use

Publication Date



Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, College of


Political Science, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Dr. Nathan Griffith

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


As a result of the War on Drugs, the U.S. has increased criminal penalties for drug-related offenses. Have these measures actually worked to decrease drug-related crime? This study examines the impact of criminal drug policies on drug use in the United States. The goal is to determine whether the existence of stricter, or more punitive, measures effectively deter drug use. To do this, the number of drug overdose deaths in each state are compared to the strictness of their criminal drug laws. Overdose death rates are used as the dependent variable. The main independent variable is criminal drug laws, which are measured based on the average months incarcerated. Duration of quarantine and state GDP are used as control variables. A regression will be performed on the data for the years 2010 and 2020 to determine the effect of strictness on drug use. If increased criminal penalties do act as a deterrent, stricter states should have less overdose deaths than more relaxed states.

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