Introduction: North Carolina's 2017 STOP Act implemented several measures to address the increasing opioid overdose death rate. However, due to racial differences prescription opioid use and treatment service access, the STOP Act may exhibit differential impacts by race. This study examined the impact of the STOP Act on opioid overdose deaths by race.
Methods: State-level secondary data were compiled for all 50 states. Race-stratified opioid overdose rates were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's WONDER database from 2010 to 2019. The study obtained state-level population characteristics from the Current Population Surveys from 2010 to 2016, the CDC's 2017 Drug Surveillance Report, the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services from 2011 to 2016, and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2010 to 2016. We obtained outcomes from 2010 to 2019 and state characteristics were obtained for the pre-STOP Act period (2010-2016) as available. Using the synthetic control method, we created two synthetic North Carolinas, one Black/African American and one White, from a weighted average of other states similar to North Carolina in terms of pre-STOP Act race-stratified opioid overdose rates and population characteristics. Change was assessed as the difference in the race-stratified opioid overdose death rate for North Carolina the corresponding synthetic control.
Results: The opioid overdose death rate among the White population decreased by 7.17 and 8.96 deaths/100 k in 2018 and 2019 following the STOP Act (overall decrease p = .0217); however, the study found no significant change in the opioid overdose death rate among the Black/African American population (overall decrease p = .1053), with decreases 1.68 and 3.2 deaths/100 k in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the STOP Act reduced the opioid overdose death rate in North Carolina among the White, but not Black/African American, population. This heterogeneous effect has implications for health equity and can inform the development of future substance use policies.
Keywords: Drug policy; Health equity; Opioids; Overdose; Race.
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