Bibliometric Analysis of Academic Articles on Epidemic of Prescription Opioid Deaths, 1988-2017

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Igor Kissin


Purpose: The current study assesses how academic medical journals reflected the prescription opioid death crisis. The principal aim was to answer the question: How long did it take to reach definite bibliometric acknowledgment of deaths from opioid epidemic?

Methods: Death-related bibliometric indices were determined for opioids associated with increased mortality. The main of them is the percentage of articles on an individual opioid associated with death among all PubMed articles on that opioid. The bibliometric indices were followed for six 5-year periods, from 1988 to 2017.  The time course for each of the indices were compared for two groups of opioids: 1) Those used for the treatment of chronic pain (“root cause of the epidemic”) – such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and tramadol, and 2) Those which were always associated with the death due to addiction -- heroin and methadone.  The difference in death-related bibliometric indices between these two groups of opioids was used as an indicator of changes in presentation of opioid deaths.

Results: The articles reporting death associated with oxycodone, tramadol, or hydrocodone became noticeable during 2003-2007, ten years after the beginning of epidemic (1993-1997).  It was only in 2013-2017 mortality associated with these opioids were presented at the levels close to those of heroin or methadone. Only during 2013-2017 (twenty years after the beginning of epidemic) was death associated with oxycodone presented in journals as openly (in the article’s titles) as that associated with heroin, or methadone.

Conclusion: The danger of death from treatment of chronic pain with opioids was not properly appreciated for almost twenty years.


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How to Cite
KISSIN, Igor. Bibliometric Analysis of Academic Articles on Epidemic of Prescription Opioid Deaths, 1988-2017. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 10, n. 11, nov. 2022. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 29 mar. 2023. doi:
Research Articles


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