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October 6, 1978

Addictive potential of drugs is concern in pain relief

JAMA. 1978;240(15):1571-1575. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290150017004

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Many physicians and patients fear more frequent and larger dosages of analgesics as recommended by Robert N. Butler, MD, because they believe there is always the chance that the patient may become addicted, especially when narcotics are involved. Heroin in particular is feared.

Yet claims of heroin's addictive potential may be exaggerated, according to Robert L. DuPont, MD, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. DuPont is one of the few individuals who has done research on addiction associated with heroin usage. His studies indicate that even among long-term street users only about 10% become addicts. (This does not mean DuPont supports medical use of heroin. "We still need to know first if it has a therapeutic effect," he says.) Lee Robins, PhD, of Washington University, found similar small rates of heroin addiction in working with drug-using veterans of the Vietnam War.

In some of his writings, Robert G. Twycross,