Are Opiates Addictive?

are opiates addictive
Let’s face it… Americans love their opiates. Even though the U.S. only comprises of a small percentage of the world’s population, we consume most of the world’s opiate supply. It appears as though the United States has an unrelenting hunger for drugs. Overdose statistics have been soaring and, even though some communities have been able to reduce their number of overdoses, nationwide, it’s still an epidemic. A long time ago, a famous medical journal passed some judgments on the addictiveness of opiates and, lately, it’s been creating quite a stir.

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 The letter was not peer reviewed and also failed to provide further evidence to support their claims.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.

Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine published another letter to the editor that was an analysis of how many times the original letter to the editor had been cited in regard to a low incidence of addiction with long-term narcotic treatment. As of May 30th 2017, the original letter had been cited 608 times with 72% of the citations using the letter as proof that long-term narcotics users rarely became addicted to the drugs they were taking.

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."

Dr. Hershel Jick, one of the authors of the original letter said his letter has been misrepresented and it was supposed to refer only to patients being treated in a hospital where they were being closely watched and treated. The recent analysis, however, showed 80% of the citations referring to the letter never mentioned the patients were admitted into a hospital. Even more disheartening, the number of citations proving the safety of long-term narcotic use surged when OxyContin hit the market.

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.

For a free addiction consultation, call Narconon Suncoast today at 888-429-5914

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Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 11 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.