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IN THE NEWS

Read the latest opioid-related news. Click here for an archive of news, documentaries, interviews, books and more.

Opioids and the Courts

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The Resource Center for Courts is a repository of current best practices, policies, research, statistics, podcasts, and more on addressing opioids in the courts.

The impact of the opioid epidemic touches every aspect of public safety and the judicial system. In a recent survey of chief justices and state court administrators, 55 percent of respondents indicated that the opioid epidemic's impact on the courts in their states is severe. Drug-related arrests involving opioids are skyrocketing. In many communities, court dockets and probation caseloads are filled with individuals with opioid-use disorders. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an opioid is a natural or synthetic chemical that interacts with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain and reduces the intensity of pain signals and feelings of pain. This class of drugs includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and pain medications available legally by prescription such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and many others. 

The CDC reports that between 2016 and 2017, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) increased by 45%, from 6.2 to 9.0 per 100,000; while deaths involving methadone, heroin and natural opioids remained approximately the same.

Number and Age-Adjusted Rates of Drug Overdose Deaths by State, 2017

2017ODwnotes

In addition to the impact of opioid abuse on the criminal courts, the nation’s family courts and child welfare system have been deeply affected. A recent report by the Administration for Children and Families shows that, after years of decline, the number of children in foster care is rising. From 2012 to 2016, the percentage of removals nationally due to parental substance abuse increased 13 percent to 32.2 percent. 

Legal Responses

Legislation

State legislatures have been active in developing and enacting a broad range of statutory responses to the opioid crisis. Select the subject matter of the legislation you are seeking from the dropdown menu below. You will find the code section and full text of all laws within each selected category arranged alphabetically by state. Proposed and pending bills are not included. Additional information regarding opioid related legislation is also tracked by the National Council of State Legislatures.