Intended for healthcare professionals


A history of opioid abuse. . . and other stories

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 06 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5036

Opioid epidemic

Writing in the New York Review of Books, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine traces the history of the opioid abuse epidemic in the United States. It’s estimated that 72 000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, compared with 64 000 the previous year and 52 000 the year before that ( Most of these deaths involved opioids. Blame for the epidemic is often laid on a single drug, OxyContin, which was marketed as non-addictive but turned out to be addictive. However, the full story is more complicated, and …

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