Five sentences that killed 200,000 Americans


Addiction to opioid painkillers has killed nearly 200,000 Americans and has devastated far more lives than that.  How could this have happened?

A study has traced the problem to a five sentence, 101 word letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980.  The letter described a study of 12,000 hospital patients who were given narcotic painkillers.  It said that there were only four cases of addiction.  It concluded that there was therefore little danger in prescribing opioid painkillers.

That letter was cited and referred to in study after study.  It led doctors to prescribe that medication on a massive scale.

Unfortunately, the letter was mistaken, as a story explains after the jump.  But it led directly to the scourge that we are struggling with today.

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Why there is heroin in the heartland

Heroin used to be a plague in the big cities, but today heroin addiction is rampant in the small towns of America’s heartland.  Rod Dreher reviews what sounds like an important book, Sam Quinones, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.  It is a tale of a peaceful network of illegal immigrants, a new marketing strategy featuring personal deliveries and customer service, and the legacy of pain pill addiction.  Underlying it all is the goal of avoiding all pain and of attaining a state of “permanent pleasure.” [Read more…]

Why heroin

Thanks to Kirk and to the recommendations from Al, Elizabeth, and Todd at yesterday’s post for alerting me to this touching and illuminating account from British comedian Russell Brand about why he used heroin, how he got clean and has been for 10 years, and how he is still tempted. [Read more…]