Prescription pain pills, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, were involved in 6,631 overdose deaths, intentional and unintentional, among women in 2010, a 415% increase from the 1,287 such deaths in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.During the same period, the number of such painkiller overdose deaths among men rose 265% to 10,020, the CDC said. […]“Many people have become addicted, because of the large number of prescriptions being written,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden in a teleconference with reporters. He called the painkiller problems among women “underrecognized” by health-care professionals.
The implications for the country’s drug problem overall are obvious enough. Contrary to libertarian predictions, it doesn’t seem there’s any reason to doubt that drug overdose deaths would continue climbing in the case of mass legalization. Just look at prescription opiates: legalization hasn’t made people use them less, and it’s obvious that some members of the medical establishment are abusing their positions to provide easy access. If a rising death toll and systematic abuse characterize the legalized opiate market, we’re not sure why the legalization of, say, cocaine would be much different.The more reports like this one we see, the harder libertarian arguments for legalization are to believe. Regulating and taxing now-illicit drugs like heroin to lower usage and raise revenue is a nice idea, but we just don’t see it. Abuse of legal drugs at local pharmacies is already rampant and proving elusive enough for government regulation.[Image of pills courtesy of Shutterstock]