“Recreational drugs, including cocaine and heroin, are responsible for an estimated 10,000-20,000 American deaths per year [1,2]. While this represents a serious public health problem, it is a “smokescreen” for America’s real drug problem. America’s “war on drugs” is directed at the wrong enemy. It is obvious that interdiction, stiff mandatory sentences, and more vigorous enforcement of drug laws have failed. The reason is simple. Cause and effect have been reversed.
[…] While approximately 10,000 per year die from the effects of illegal drugs, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that an estimated 106,000 hospitalized patients die each year from drugs which, by medical standards, are properly prescribed and properly administered. More than two million suffer serious side effects. 
An article in Newsweek  put this into perspective. Adverse drug reactions, from “properly” prescribed drugs, are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. According to this article, only heart disease, cancer, and stroke kill more Americans than drugs prescribed by medical doctors. Reactions to prescription drugs kill more than twice as many Americans as HIV/AIDS or suicide. Fewer die from accidents or diabetes than adverse drug reactions. It is important to point out the limitations of this study. It did not include outpatients, cases of malpractice, or instances where the drugs were not taken as directed.”