Are Opiates Addictive?
In 1980, the New England Journal of Medicine published a five-sentence letter to the editor entitled "Addiction Rare in Patients Treated with Narcotics." Addiction rare in patients treated with narcotics? Seriously? Furthermore, the letter was signed by Jane Porter and Dr. Hershel Jick of Boston University. They stated they had treated tens of thousands of patients with narcotic drugs and only saw four instances where the patients became addicted to the drugs. The letter was not peer reviewed and also failed to provide further evidence to support their claims. Sadly, this letter has been cited many, many times since its publication as proof that narcotics rarely cause addiction, thus supporting the safety of long-term treatment with narcotics.
Dr. David Juurlink was one of the researchers who analyzed the citations of the original letter to the editor. He said the "5-sentence letter to the editor in medicine’s most prestigious journal was leveraged as proof that opioids could be used safely over the long term, even though it offered no evidence to support that claim. It's clear that many of the authors who cited it hadn't actually read it."
Interesting, isn’t it?
Letters such as the original letter to the editor, proclaiming the safety of long-term narcotic use, may be one of the many factors that created the current opiate epidemic. Lawsuit after lawsuit have been filed in recent years against Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, for misrepresenting the drug, leading prescribers to believe in its “safety.” And let’s face it, the whole heroin epidemic started with pills. People got hooked on the pills, got cut off by their doctors, only to hit the streets and to find heroin. It’s time we stopped taking doctor’s “word for it” that the medication they want to give us is safe. A lot of people thought OxyContin was safe and addiction was rare and now look what happened. We have a growing epidemic on our hands that’s showing no signs of stopping, to the point where good drug rehabilitation is more necessary than ever. Luckily, there’s good treatment centers out there that can undo the damage these drugs are causing.