[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
March 25, 1974


Author Affiliations

Washington, DC

JAMA. 1974;227(12):1380. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230250012002

To the Editor.—  Your recent editorial (226:660, 1973) took me to task for using "loaded language" when I called heroin addiction in the District of Columbia "epidemic" (N Engl J Med 285:320, 1973).The use of the word "epidemic" to describe the increase in heroin addiction during the last decade and the use of the intellectual tools of epidemiology have recently been criticized by several writers.The criticism can be summarized into two basic arguments. Calling heroin addiction epidemic scares people, when we need less fear and more reason to solve this complex problem. The epidemiologic approach to the problem of heroin addiction ignores the fact that drug abuse is significantly different from infectious diseases, and the use of epidemiologic concepts leads to false and dangerous conclusions.The editorial dealt only with the first of these two criticisms. Although the editorial was correct that I did not define the term