In America, the number of deaths from drug overdoses exceeded the number of deaths from car crashes or guns in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available.
Legal prescription opioids like Oxycontin and Percocet, as well as illegal opioids like heroin, were involved in 60% of those deaths, according to a CDC report released in January.
The overdoses have led the federal government to dub opioid abuse an “epidemic.”
The problem has gotten so bad that President Barack Obama recently allocated $1.1 billion to fight the epidemic in his proposed budget for 2017. It follows up on a 2011 plan from the White House to address the issue through expanded education, enforcement, and drug tracking.
All of the attention on the opioid crisis has had a major unintended consequence, at least if you talk to many of the doctors who prescribe them: many are increasingly wary of prescribing opioids, even for legitimate pain patients, according to several pain specialists we spoke to.