For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), deaths in 2015 from heroin abuse surpassed deaths from gun homicides, an unprecedented phenomenon for a country seen as more addicted to its firearms. Total opioid deaths, including overdoses of prescription drugs like OxyContin and synthetic opiates like fentanyl, hit 33,092 last year. One-third of users of these drugs for more than two months report a physical dependency, which suggests that the mortality rate will rise.

Most opioid addictions begin with a doctor writing a prescription. Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, paid off middlemen to prevent any curtailing of the flow of their product. Insys Therapeutics manufactured the synthetic opioid fentanyl; six of its executives were recently indicted in a scheme to overprescribe it. Over a six-year period, 9 million hydrocodone pills were shipped to a town in West Virginia with just 392 residents.