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We Can’t Arrest Our Way Out of Overdose: The Drug Bust Paradox

In speaking with police about preventing overdose, the officers’ common refrain is “We aren’t going to arrest our way out of this” ( And among public health practitioners, there is weariness that our best efforts have not yet stemmed the tide of overdose deaths. In this context, an article in this issue of AJPH lends credence to law enforcement’s mantra and provides health policymakers with evidence to take bolder action.

In this issue of AJPH, Ray et al. (p. 750) explored whether overdose increased or decreased in proximity to drug arrests in Indianapolis, Indiana. They found that within a six-minute walk (500 m) of each drug arrest, opioid overdose deaths doubled. Elevated fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses were sustained over one, two, and three weeks.


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