One short letter’s huge impact on the opioid epidemic

cnn_logo_2449Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose. Drug overdoses overall — most of them from opioid painkillers and heroin — are the leading cause of accidental death in the US, killing more people than guns or car accidents. In fact, while Americans represent only about 5% of the global population, they consume about 80% of the world’s opioid painkillers. But how did we get to this point?

Many public health experts point to a simple five-sentence letter to the editor published in a 1980 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The 101-word letter, titled “Addiction Rare in Patients Treated with Narcotics,” was signed by Jane Porter and Dr. Hershel Jick of Boston University, who said that of their 11,000-plus patients treated with narcotics, there were only four cases of addiction.

And although this letter provided no further evidence and was not a peer-reviewed study, it has often been cited as proof of the safety of prescribing long-term narcotics for chronic pain.
This article is from CNN and you can read the rest of it here.
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