The 5 Sentences That’s Killing Americans

2 million American are hooked on opioids.

The NY Times published an article a few days ago about the estimated deaths in America due to the rise of opioid use.

We can get into the debates about who’s selling them and the social, racial and economics surrounding opioids. But I’m interested in something a little bit more invisible.

A few days before the NY Times article, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article (by one of my old colleagues from my graduate school days…go Irfan!) about how five measly sentences perpetuated mass ignorance around a drug that is killing Americans.

Here’s an image of the five sentences taken from the Appendix of the Journal article (so you don’t have to dig for it).

These five sentences were referred some 608 times! I’m not an academic but from my friends who are they say this is akin to striking gold. More citations means more funding, tenure, and respect amongst your peers.

Not a bad deal for writing five sentences.

But something is clearly off.

Not one paper tried to debunk these five sentences. They didn’t try and run their own experiments or questions the study methodology (I would have tested addition at home and not in a controlled hospital environment).

Nope. Instead, they just assumed that because a doctor/scientist came up with a result it must be true. This “truth” led doctors to repeatedly tell patients that “no, opioids are not addictive.”

You’re probably thinking this is ridiculous but go check out the 608 papers written by smart people who didn’t think this was ridiculous.

The tacit assumptions we make in science can not only be wrong; they can flat-out deadly.

Good science is about being open to questioning what we know and figuring out new ways to explore the things we believe to be true. Do not assume anything to be an absolute truth.

Whenever we conduct scientific experiments, they should be repeatable, provable, with good samples (not just the WEIRD ones) and a enough of them.

Groupthink amongst scientists is a real thing and our assumption that scientists are always right is not only dangerous to us but also to society.

We need to keep an eye out on SCIENCE! vs science.

Originally published at