By German Lopez for Vox. One of the biggest debates in drug policy is whether legalizing drugs, and therefore increasing access to them, would actually lead to more use and abuse — or whether people would be rational enough to stay away from dangerous drugs. Supporters of legalizing all drugs tend to believe the latter, while opponents of legalization tend to believe the former.
In comes the opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic. After doctors loosened access to opioid painkillers by prescribing them at tremendous levels, use very clearly rose — and Americans have been suffering the results of that greater use through tens of thousands of deaths since 2000. In 2014 alone, more Americans died of drug overdoses than any other year on record: more than 47,000 deaths in just one year, nearly two-thirds of which were opioid-related, according to federal data.