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I have a theory about how public policy works in this country (and possibly elsewhere -- I don't really know). Basically, we focus on whatever is currently producing the most bodies annually.

To that end, I've been noticing that we seem to be focusing more and more on heroin, and prescription drug abuse has been sliding a bit in public awareness. I think these graphs help show the trends underlying this change in focus.


Prescription drug overdose deaths are still the biggest number. The trend lines, however, suggest that by the time we get the 2015 numbers, that might have changed, and unless we do something effective -- and soon -- the ramp on heroin looks absolutely horrifying.

Clinton has already said that as she travels around the country listening to the concerns of voters, worries about friends and family members who have serious substance abuse problems are very high on the list. And while legalization might assuage some concerns about those friends and family members getting locked up, it does less to address the real possibility of a quick death. Sure, we should make sure all first responders have Narcan and know how to use it. But that is definitely not enough for the problem we appear to currently have.