Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Public Policy and Law

First Advisor

Adrienne Fulco

Second Advisor

Rachel Moskowitz


For the past fifty years, American drug policy has been manipulated and enforced in a way that made it possible for drug epidemics to occur and has exaggerated their negative consequences on society. The War on Drugs policy initiatives first implemented in the 1970s created a drug law enforcement structure that has criminalized addiction and made it difficult for addicts to receive treatment. The United States is currently facing it's worst drug epidemic in history due to these policies. However, unlike previous epidemics, the opioid crisis is particularly unique not only because of the unparalleled nature of the issue, but also because of the policy approaches being put forward that are attempting to combat it. This thesis attempts to evaluate why the War on Drugs policies failed and trace the astonishing trajectory of the opioid epidemic in order to recommend realistic and effective policy solutions that can successfully curb the crisis. As a way to categorize the wide array of possible solutions, I use the basic economic theory of supply and demand, a popular prism used to evaluate drug policy. I also consider the "federalization of drug policy," a phenomenon that occurred during the War on Drugs era in which states and localities became increasingly involved in drug enforcement. Thus, this thesis attempts to apply a two-layered framework of supply and demand within the scope of federalism in order to provide some innovative insights into how the United States can approach this ongoing issue.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Law.