The Drug War Rant and Stop the Drug War turned me on to a report by the Center for Disease Control. The just released "Deaths: Final Report for 2005" (hey, it takes a while to count all the dead folk) may not be the most uplifting title, but they do breakdown the two-and-a-half million deaths in America (bet you couldn't have guessed that number).
Here's the shocker: 33,541 people died of drug overdoses (see Tables 21 and 22 of the report for details). The report doesn't breakdown drug overdoses and legal and illegal drugs. But the vast majority of overdose deaths are from illegal drugs (opiates like heroin in particular) and entirely preventable.
Nobody wants to overdose on heroin. You take illegal drugs because you want to get high. Overdoses happen because the drug is stronger than you think. Or you get clean and relapse and forget your tolerance is down. People don't have to die. They would live if only we regulated and labeled this very dangerous drug. Somehow our drug-policy makers have decided that maintaining drug prohibition is worth tens of thousands of death per year. Shame, drug warriors. Shame.