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How Misuse of a Single Paragraph Ended Up Killing 60,000 Americans Per Year

deadly words opioid crisis

Story at-a-glance -

  • In 1980, a five-sentence-long letter to the editor was published in NEJM, noting that hospitalized patients with no history of addiction who were treated, short-term, with opioids rarely developed addiction
  • This letter has been cited more than 600 times, serving as the basis of misleading and inaccurate statements suggesting opioids have a very low risk of addiction when prescribed for pain
  • Eighty percent of articles citing this letter to the editor made no mention of the fact that this data pertained specifically to hospitalized patients receiving the drugs on a short-term basis

By Dr. Mercola

Opioid addiction is at an all-time high in the U.S., and according to many addiction specialists, pain and hopelessness are primary drivers of this burgeoning crisis. Limiting the availability of opioids and making overdose-reversal drugs and treatment for drug addiction more readily available are part of the answer. But it's not enough.


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