Health Affairs  |  November 2, 2022

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Law is a high-velocity but blunt health policy weapon that doesn’t always accommodate the critical nuances of clinical care. The harms of stigmatizing and criminalizing some patients and providers are well illustrated by law and policy efforts regarding opioid and other controlled-substance prescribing in reaction to the drug overdose crises (often described as the opioid crisis). Many of these efforts induced rather than reduced harm—in part, by oversimplifying the root causes of the problem and in part, by improperly invading, scrutinizing, and oversimplifying medical decision making for patients with complex medical needs.

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