Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Committee Member

Peter Wood, Ph.D

Committee Member

Brian Sellers, Ph.D

Committee Member

Grigoris Argeros, Ph.D


Opioids have quadrupled the number of unintentional drug overdose deaths since 1999 and are now among the leading causes of death in the United States. Though some reform has recently occurred, the United States continues to operate largely under a punitive criminal justice model despite unsuccessful legislative schemes and voluminous research stemming from a previous war on drugs. This thesis serves to explore the history and extent of opioids in the United States and to analyze salient catalysts responsible for creating an epidemic of abuse. While private and governmental coalitions have formed to develop successful interventions and treatments, they are drastically underfunded. Beginning in the early 2000s, there have been a number of civil and criminal lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors, and prescribers of opioids, with the hope of curbing overdose deaths and disrupt the illicit opioid market.

Included in

Criminology Commons