Every 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.