In 2010, for example, there were 16,500 such deaths, more than four times as many as at the turn of the century [Me: when they were available (in different formulations) over the counter.] This century so far more than 100,000 people in the United States have died from overdoses of prescription opioids.
Mostly these drugs were prescribed for various kinds of chronic pain, for which they are singularly ineffective. What, then, accounts for their prescription in ever-larger quantities? It is unlikely that the American population is several times more pain-afflicted than it was a few years ago. Moreover, the drugs are not new—very similar drugs have been available for a long time.
There are, it seems to me, three main factors… (…)
Dishonest drug companies, careless, supine and cowardly doctors, and egotistical patients who will not take no for an answer have between them caused an epidemic that, had it been attributable to a bacterium or a virus, would have caused widespread panic and calls for all the research resources of modern medicine to be brought to bear upon the problem.