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February 12, 1973

Abuse of Pentazocine

Author Affiliations

Department of Labor Olympia, Wash

JAMA. 1973;223(7):801. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220070055027

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To the Editor.—  The medical staff of this large workmen's compensation agency is increasingly concerned about addictive or habituating properties and abuses of pentazocine. Our department has assumed financial responsibility for several month-long hospitalizations for withdrawal from iatrogenic habituation or addiction to injectable pentazocine lactate (Talwin) in "industrial low-back problems." In some of the cases, resistance to withdrawal from pentazocine lactate appears as bitter as to any other addicting agent. Two current cases demonstrate especially alarming patterns of abuse.

Report of Cases.—Case 1.—  A 38-year-old man reported complaints of acute dyspnea, tachypnea, and numbness and tingling of the extremities of several hours' duration, and also chronic back pain with a history of five back surgeries allegedly due to a 1964 industrial back injury. The emergency room report noted that the antecubital veins were thrombosed bilaterally. Patchy cellulitis was present, and "hundreds of needle puncture sites." The patient stated