US Population in 2007: 301,231,207
To overestimate and assume 2/3 these deaths were from prescription opioids, the grand total for annual RX opioid deaths comes to 18,400. So considering the following...
That 1 in 16,371 died from an RX opioid overdose, and 1 in 10,914 died from a drug overdose;
...One would have to conclude that creating mass public hysteria by claiming that overdose deaths due to opioids, or any drug for that matter, is a national crisis, is nothing short of alarmist and delibrately misleading.
And interestingly enough, seeing that americans consume 80% of the world's pharmaceutical opioid supply, we're actually seeing the very worst of the issue.
I'm not suggesting that opiate related harm such as addiction and death is not a problem, it certainly is. I'm simply suggesting we set our perception of the issue straight, that we avoid a disproportionate social response which might create and worsen more problems than it sets to attenuate.
Let's compare some other deaths from 2007, also related to lifestyle risks:
Heart disease: 616,067 (Most caused by eating habits, i.e. food addiction)
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924 (Smoking causes many cases)
Cancer: 562,875 (Often largely brought on by various carcinogens present in foods, sunlight, smoke, preservatives)
(Compared to 27,600 drug overdose deaths & 18,400 of these related to opioids)
All overwhelmingly outnumber opioid abuse related deaths. If we were to legislate away lifestyle risk associated with these conditions; fast food, high fat food and smoking would be illegal.
The mass hysteria and bureaucratic crackdown seem yet further obsurd when considering that the vast, vast, majority of these opioid deaths are a result of delibrate & grossly negligent, or non-therapeutic opioid use; Furthermore, a majority of these opioid related cases are not even caused solely by opioid use, but rather by the concurrent abuse of alcohol, benzodiazepines, illicit drugs, and other intoxicants. Deaths caused by opioids alone, not to mention deaths involving medically sanctioned opioid use for the treatment of pain, are far less common than most alarmists would have us believe.
The entire notion that opioid abuse, addiction and overdose has become an epidemic is largely reliant on the assertion that opioid abuse and addiction, like heart disease or the bubonic plague, is involuntary. And to those perpetuating the pseudoscientific claim that opioid abusers are victims and can not help themselves; such mindless rhetoric has been adressed many times here before, and is not even worthy of being acknowledged. The notion that "drugs themselves addict users" and addicts cannot control their behavior is nothing more than the product of religious propaganda, age old superstitions & voodoo pharmacology.
Drugs are inanimate & insentient entities.
They are neither good nor evil. They do not inevitably cause harm. Drugs are not contagious. Drugs cannot destroy will power or decision making ability. Drugs have no inherent willful powers and are incapable of acting on their own. Drugs do not attack, destroy, or infect individuals and drugs do not infect communities.
Some try to reason: "No one as a child ever aspired to become addicted to drugs, therefore addiction is a disease, it's something they catch from drugs, they must be helpless and unable to control themselves"
To this I say: No one as a child aspires to become a janitor; this does not mean they don't make the choice to accept the job, and does not make "janitorialism" a disease. No one as a child dreams of becoming obese; this does not mean they don't choose to overindulge in food, nor does it make gluttony a disease. No one as a child aspires to becoming a felon; this does not mean they couldn't help but rob, steal, or kill.
We should be approaching this problem with truthful education. We must 'rebuild and maintain' rather than limit, our allowance of individual choice, while emphasizing individual responsibility and good decision making.
Data Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm