Opinion: Lessons learned — and lost — from a Vietnam-era study of addiction

Opioids like heroin, morphine, OxyContin, and fentanyl occupy a spot in the public imagination as particularly dangerous and addictive substances. Amid an addiction epidemic with no end in sight, this class of drugs has been given special attention in the news, funding bills, and the 2017 President’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. But does the evidence justify that view?

One way to find out would be to study a random sample of people living in the same environment, exposed to the same amount of opioids, who can be tested and followed over time. Impossible and unethical, right?

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