It's a well known fact that the rate of opioid overdoses is on the rise in the United States. 100's of thousand of people have died from these powerful narcotics in the last years.
Addiction is not new to our society; people have been addicted to alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine and heroin. Certain foods are also craved like drugs. What's new, however, is the mass prescription of opioid pain killers by medical doctors. This started in the 1990's with OxyContin that drug industry reps argued was less addictive than other pain killers. Doctors wrote 200 million prescriptions per year. The Guardian article I link to above uncovers the complicity of the US FDA and financial ties between the government agency and the pharmaceutical giants. Big money is involved: Purdue Pharma has made 35 billion from sales of OxyContin.
There are ways of helping victims of chronic pain without medications. This mainly involves exercise and mind/body learning that out-competes chronic pain pathways. But this, of course, has nothing to do with taking a pill. Now we need to help millions of people with both chronic pain and dangerous addictions to opioids.