Date of Award

Spring 5-24-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in International Relations


Political Science & International Relations


Randy Willoughby


Drug use and subsequent addiction is a major global health concern that transcends culture, borders, and generations. The production of synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl, has exacerbated the worldwide opioid epidemic that is endangering public health, economic output, and national security. The ease of manufacture of synthetic opioids facilitates clandestine production and trafficking, while their higher potency leads to higher rates of overdose. This research seeks to analyze the dramatic increase in opioid overdoses around the world and explain the transnational variation of the epidemic. In particular, this study aims to compare the epidemic in the U.S and Estonia in contrast to Mexico and Poland. Although the causes of addiction epidemics are complex, this research argues that at least one reason for the increase in deaths from opioid overdoses is the availability and affordability of opioids in certain countries has generated an opioid epidemic, wherein the inelastic demand has been exploited and exacerbated by criminals providing a dangerous supply of synthetic alternatives. While demand cannot be solved without eliminating addiction, the severity of fatalities can be mitigated by increasing access to naloxone, providing rehabilitation services, and increasing educational resources on the dangers of drugs.