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Teaching People to Trade Stocks Is Like Starting Them on Heroin – Munger (evidenceinvestor.com)
120 points by deegles 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 99 comments

Well that is a click baity title. What he really meant was that encouraging people to trade stocks is a bad idea period (he is a big proponent of index funds).

I can't say I disagree with that, not that I would categorically lump all financial managers into the 'useless' category either.

But it is important to note that he uses 'trading' in the sense of actively taking and releasing positions in different stocks in order to capture their short term change in value. Not 'investing' which is buying and holding equity (stocks) in company that are growing or otherwise generating wealth (and ideally paying a dividend).

I'm going to propose a counter-argument based on an experiment I'm running on myself. I recently started trading stocks because I wanted to expose myself to a different news-sphere. I believe that I will grow and understand more about the world from doing so. Is it addicting? Maybe, but if I learn more about machine learning because I'm running models on stock data, then it doesn't seem too unhealthy to me. Am I going to gamble all my money away on the news cycle and models that I'm developing? Hell no. But then, maybe I haven't had whatever hit I would need to be super addicted to it.

Another hypothesis: the difference is whether you view it as a means or an end. I do not believe that stock trading will ever make me rich. But I believe it is a means to teach me things. Thus it is less addictive.

That's kind of the point of the article's argument, which is to say that if you compare your trading to an "index stock" then the index is likely to win, by a big margin.

So, good luck with ML, but make sure you reality test against the "set and forget" solution of indexes.

A follow-up question is if Robinhood (by massively reducing trading costs/friction) is socially positive or not. Their career pitch is that they democratize America's financial system (https://careers.robinhood.com/), but looking at how the reduced friction just leads to Average Joe losing more money, you could credibly view this as a type of destructive "excessive democracy".

They are increasing access to markets for the average person. They're also encouraging uninformed investment decision-making by doing things like sending push notifications when big name stocks swing way up or down, earning money by selling users' trading data to the highest bidder (increasing the overall fraction of "national product" that ends up in the pockets of financiers as the purchasers of that data make fast moves on that info) , plus that whole debacle with their "checking & savings" product.

What do you mean by “users’ trading data”? If different from the trades themselves?

I just meant the transaction history.

Don't forget trading on margin and access to options.

If the Average Joe loses more money, maybe they should rename it SherrifOfNotingham as it would be stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

Individuals are actively choosing to make investments. Although I will say that it seems that their risk assessment department is seriously lacking. (see: u/1r0nyman)

I dunno, he doubled his money — I think his assessment of risk was spot on ;)

simply reduce it down to is gambling socially positive or not

Some day in the future we will look back on present day paternalism as a terrible evil.

This attitude of “Those people are too stupid to do what they want. We should stop them.” Is awful.


> Well that is a click baity title

From the article:

> “People are trying to teach you to come in and trade actively in stocks,” he told his audience. “Well, I regard that as roughly equivalent to trying to induce a bunch of young people to start off on heroin.”

It's actually a pretty accurate description of the most sensational part of his speech.

> trade actively

The key phrase in the sentence, which I think people are glossing over here

There are plenty of comments here that advocate for active trading, so Munger's quip still rings true.

Active trading does make sense for certain participants (e.g. certainly for HFT firms, but arguably for many others, e.g. maybe even for a well-educated individual investing in under-researched small cap), and as the fraction of investment money that is passive increases it starts to make sense for more of them.

Active trading with options is a great way to make money. I always suggest it's good to park money in something like AAPL and collect dividends from it, as it's the market leader, if it drops, everything will. Alternatively put most of your money in an index fund and just keep adding. Something like 10% of your portfolio in options trading, and 90% in an index fund/powerful stock, preferably a dividend paying one. Then limit your options trade to 3% of your options trading account. This way you can make money from options and grow your account at the same time using the buy and hold methodology.

> he is a big proponent of index funds

Oddly, when I entered the passive index world I got absorbed into checking in on my index ETF purchases every day, multiple times per day, and resisting the urge to sell and buy (more index ETFs, lol). I knew in my head this made no sense - the prices will follow the market by design - yet this urge went on for like 2 weeks before I forced myself to stop.

If you follow the rule that you are not experienced enough to pick out individual stocks you should also follow the rule not to pick various sectors or all the other possible index funds that exist.

Following this invest in only two funds. A total index fund for the companies in the country you want to live in (and hopefully the one you already do live in :) ) and a global total index fund of some type. I would choose a global fund that invests only in places that had a decent rule-of-law culture, but that's just me.

The nice thing about index funds is there are so many different ones to buy and trade. Years ago, I made a portfolio of many ETFs. One idea that I found attractive for a while was to equal weight by country, on the basis that it should be better diversification than owning the world, cap weighted.

Is value investing, as a general method still work, when everybody knows about it, unlike the past ?

Or just a lucky few beat the index funds with it today ?

Value has not performed particularly well over the last decade: see page 6 in https://www.yardeni.com/pub/style.pdf

Most of these charts rely only on quantitative measure of value like P/E and that has certainly under performed by a lot. But value investing goes beyond such quantitative measures.

Sure, it’s not just a question of ratios. But I think it’s hard to make the case that « value » has worked lately as well as it used to work.

Active value is not outperforming either: http://news.morningstar.com/fund-category-returns/

If you think those are closeted indexers we could look at hedge funds and I don’t think value stars have shined in the last years (but maybe my perception is not fair and it’s the result of over-reporting of the misfortunes of value investors: https://www.google.ch/amp/s/www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/artic...).

But the fact is that even Warren Buffet is doing just “ok” in relative terms. (Yes, he has a lot of money to manage. But he also has access to investment opportunities that nobody else has.)

It still works, because not everyone is in it for the long term. Some want to chase profits on shorter timescales, so will use their capital in other ways rather than sit and hold.

Value investing works even better when you're not in the public markets.

That's only if you can access private equity. For the average retail investor, it may as well not exist.

People who fail to read and educate themselves will listen to snake oils salesman pitches and trade stocks like a junkie on heroin. I spent years learning industries, learning how to read quarterly report, to identify signs of fraud, and pay attention to the news every single day.

Like anything you do you have to be committed and determined to be successful. It's not a dark secret that there are no short cuts in life. This article assumes we are all much dumber than I prefer to believe we are. We being people who have money to trade stocks and suffer from big losses.

I learned how to trade stocks by reading books about value investing and accounting practices. Very simple stuff that like anything worth learning takes a bit of time and effort. I don't get the upvotes on this article.

> I spent years learning industries, learning how to read quarterly report, to identify signs of fraud, and pay attention to the news every single day.

How'd that work out for you? Do you beat the S&P 500 YOY with less volatility? If you account for your hours and trading fees? How many years in a row?

If your answer is yes, you should start a fund! Because statistically, whether a mutual fund or exclusive hedge fund, you're a miracle.

> Like anything you do you have to be committed and determined to be successful.

His argument, seemingly based off the Random Walk Down Wall Street data; which basically shows that no matter how committed and determined you are, the broad based index is going to beat you, if not 1 year, year over year.

Today I have 5 stocks i've bought over the past 60 days. I wont take the time to post my past 24 years of investing. I'm doing ok and so is my team of close friends I bounce ideas off of.


The S&P 500 is up 15% from 60 days ago which is considerably more than all of the positions in your screenshot.

I'm long in these holdings. The S&P500 over 60 days involves no research.

I believe that's the point. You could have been on vacation instead of doing all that work to pick stocks and still made more money.

Looks like it's up around 5% from Nov 20th, not 15%.

I bought XOM about 2-3 weeks ago at 71.75 You're also not calculating dividends. Xom is pay 4.4 and some of my other holding have already paid a few thousand in dividends.

Today is Feb 21, 60 days ago is late December not November.

> over the past 60 days

is not year over year

> doing ok

You can be doing okay, you can even be beating the S&P 500 in the short term; but if you're beating the S&P 500 over the long term you are beating almost every professional team of fund managers.


I mean, look at what Fidelity is doing with FZROX and FZILX. Both Vanguard and Fidelity are locked in a crazy fee war [1] to be the GOAT of asset management companies [2]. How the hell do you compete with Fidelity as an individual stock picker when there are no fees to speak of to participate in this fund?

I've seen people mentioning that HFT can totally and consistently beat indexes [3], but then a) can I even get in on the action with less than $1000 and b) is the automated system in place any good?

[1] https://riabiz.com/a/2018/12/13/vanguards-asset-machine-wobb...

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18701283

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19228699

RHT should make me about $6000. I bought it the day after IBM announced they would pay $190 a share. Disclaimer I'm Redhat Certified.

I was actually up 13% on ENB a Canadian pipeline company. My gain is cut in half because I doubled up on shares. I'm long on everything but RHT which is a cash payout.

You’ll probably make 10% on this trade. But the is risk of losing more than that if the transaction doesn’t close for some reason is real. That’s not free money.

It's been approved by RH and the DOJ. Google tried to make a larger offer. Where is the risk in not getting $190 a share?

The risk is obviously lower now than it was the day after the acquisition was announced. And the upside is also lower now. Less than 4%, for a closing which is not expected until the second semester of 2019 as far as I understand.

Given all your preparation and work, do you think you're able to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis? What marginal edge do you have over professional institutions + quant funds, who are also reading reports and paying attention to the news? (to say the least)

I average 12%-20+% yearly. I like to look at companies with a good PEG (price to earnings over growth) on a PEG of 1.00 or less unless their are good fundamentals. I like companies with a low P/E. I like dividends as I can reinvest cash.

My grandfather taught me about how industrials are cyclical and easy to make money on. Gas prices go up in the summer etc. etc.

Reading news means nothing. Understanding the overall picture of the economy, jobs, housing, commodities, macroeconomics (a fundamental understanding which few take time to learn) are key. Interpreting the "news" is important and learning to filter. Most news is (as the article kind of says) telling you what trends are happening. Never buy a trend. The news mostly tells the past. You have to focus on the present and future.

The news is actually talking about recession. The economy is strong at the moment. The news told us oil would never go below $150 a barrel. If you take time to learn the larger picture you would know these things are fear and not true. See the forest for the trees.

Totally agree. As this commenter [1] said it succinctly (although in a different context): "Such a family office also has to contend with other giants trying to claim the G.O.A.T. title for asset management companies with incredible scale efficiencies. The stakes are 'for all the marbles of the game' high, and they're using all the benefits of capital scale they can scrounge."

I find it extremely hard to believe that one dude can consistently beat Vanguard and Fidelity in the midst of their fee war when it comes to public equity (private equity, however, is a whole different ball game, but that's beyond the scope of this discussion).

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18701283

> do you think you're able to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis?

I don't think anyone is going to beat the market doing their due diligence. It's more about making sound investments instead of treating investing like gambling at a casino or rooting for a particular sports team.

If that is the case, why not just buy the entire US stock market through something like FZROX, SWTSX, or VTSAX? That feels like a sound investment to me.

that's a fucking_tragedy indeed lol

Good fortune to you!

But there is a shortcut in this particular instance: following Charlie Munger's advice and just buying index funds like VTSAX, SWTSX, or FZROX. A 10-year return of 13.25% for VTSAX is really sweet given the very low effort it takes to throw money into that fund.

It's not a matter of being dumb or not: it's a matter of whether the average investor is willing to carefully research companies or not. You seem to do it as a hobby, and it's great that you're getting 12% to 20% returns. But I'd wager that the average retail investor doesn't have the same drive as you do in figuring out which company's stock might rise.

After I told my coworker that I was beating the market in my stock picking account by quite a lot, he said “Man, I’m down 80%, like $10,000. What do you think I should buy to make it back?”

I said, “Just sell everything and put it in an index fund.”

I don’t think he did. He’s probably down more now.

Stock picking is fun, but for me it’s just gambling. If I lost that much, I’d quit.

I think that companies like Robinhood gamifying highly risky trading strategies are super irresponsible. There should definitely be a higher burden to educate end users, and to more tightly limit crazy shit like leveraged positions.

Thank you -- you're one of the few Robinhood critics who recognizes this (rather than their routing of orders to HFT) as the real problem

Robinhood disgusts me. 99% of their users should not be trading individual stocks (or worse)

On the other hand, letting people access cheap trading when they are young might let them learn about the stock market the only way it sticks. The hard way. With the current retirement system in America they will be in control of their, hopefully, very large retirement account at some point.

It would be better for people to learn early about trading and experience a few business cycles before they transfer $1 million out of their employees plan into their own E-Trade IRA account at age 55. A lot of older people lost much of their retirement fund in both the dot com and 2008 crashes. Buy high, sell low is the natural behavior of the human animal.

Robinhood sells shares in a bunch of ETFs as well as individual stocks. Their selection isn't as good as a Fidelity or a Vanguard but the value proposition is the lack of transaction fees. There's nothing inherently irresponsible about Robinhood (except maybe how easy it is to get a margin account). It allows individuals to make the same mistakes as any of the larger investment banks.

You can absolutely get lower risk investments through Robinhood, but they actively market things like margin trading under the "Robinhood Gold" banner. I don't think most investment banks would let you do things that risky, and you'd still have an advisor in the middle.

You can always lose money while investing, it's just Robinhood makes it feel like you're losing at Candy Crush while you're doing it. Certain financial transactions shouldn't be as frictionless as Robinhood makes them, and I can't help but feel that their platform is irresponsibly built. Their "Checking and Savings" debacle show how fast and loose they play with regulations and educating consumers.

Super wise gentleman, thoughtful speaker, inspirational story... not always right though... Trading stocks, or active investment is important for the ecosystem, and having people learn hard lessons like not to gamble with money they can't afford to lose is equally valuable. Free Markets depend on willing participants, and progressively greater efficiencies (including in investment)

Epsilon Theory has a couple of notes regarding Berkshire => e.g. - https://twitter.com/EpsilonTheory/status/1098596558495453187 - [thread] https://twitter.com/EpsilonTheory/status/1096360266416209920

>Trading stocks, or active investment is important for the ecosystem, and having people learn hard lessons like not to gamble with money they can't afford to lose is equally valuable. Free Markets depend on willing participants, and progressively greater efficiencies

How do ignorant investors making senseless trades and learning "hard lessons" improve market efficiency?

I work in HFT. He is completely correct

I always laugh when people say Robinhood is a good thing for society. Their zero fees, cool app, and gamification of trading is simply ushering fools into a casino

Cool. What's the best way to minimize transactional costs when buying ETFs (as a buy-and-hold strategy)? E.g. Should I only purchase marketable round lots? Can I do any better than Fidelity/Interactive Brokers for price improvement? Any tips to make my trades as efficient as possible? Or would you avoid ETFs altogether and just purchase mutual funds directly from Vanguard, without any transactional costs? Thanks!

You are pretty much already there

For the majority of people, I would recommend just buying Vanguard funds

If you really want to trade anything else, IB is the way to go

Gotcha, thanks! As for lot size, I know I mentioned round lots, but I typically trade odd lots out of convenience. What does this cost me in practice? Am I missing out on any investor protections that only apply to round lots?

It’s common for a programmer to want to write an algorithm that tries to beat the market. For better or worse, that’s what motivated me to want to learn how to code.

The wisdom of driving people away from trading does make sense however

Instead of writing code to beat the market, they are better off writing code to create valuable datasets they can then sell to wall street. Or applications to help Wall street analyze huge datasets, sentiment or news feeds.

Selling shovels, so to speak.

Those same programmers would be better off just following Munger's advice and putting money into index funds. Doesn't require writing any code; all it takes is a few minutes to place an order.

I'm not exactly sure why the general sentiment here on HN discourages index funds. It's pretty jarring coming from /r/personalfinance and Bogleheads.

There's nothing wrong with index funds, and I think most people should dump the majority of their money into them as well.

However, for those people who feel the obsessive need to game the system, and make money faster, I would suggest not trading, but rather developing tools and gathering data to sell to Wall Street.

Haha so true. I found coding my own, albeit stupid, trading strategies quite fun back in the day...sortta similar kind of fun building a borked poker bot.

Think it's the combination of money, a bit of math and some cool algos that make it so fun

> It’s common for a programmer to want to write an algorithm that tries to beat the market.

Is it? I'm pretty sure that I don't personally know a single programmer who has done this.

I built a backtesting platform and my own DSL to interface with TA I created in SQL. Great learning experience - and humbling.

Did you learn MQL5 language or something different?

No I was a beginner and collected futures tick data and used C++ and Qt to make OHLC data, hack together testing algorithms and charts. This was years ago. It was crude as I was a beginner.

> “Never underestimate a man who overestimates himself.”

Good life advice, especially for dealing with people who have a tendency to boast of their accomplishments.

I totally agree. Also important to note that "always overestimate yourself" and "bank on people who overestimate themselves" are not solid corrolaries.

The boastful are high variance, even taking your own judgement into account. And where there are power-law outcomes, exposing yourself to the wrong kind of tail risk can be fatal.

I feel like there's a lot of misinformation in this thread, not about the article necessarily, but markets and trading in general.

Stocks are kind of the "beginner's" asset. They're fairly easy to understand conceptually. "Trading" them is even easier. However, trading them in isolation for a profit _consistently_ is very difficult or just a product of luck. I don't know anyone who does it and wasn't burned eventually.

The thing to remember is, people doing funds or "trading" professionally aren't just buying and selling FANG stocks all day. They're balancing these trades with futures and options or options on futures and other alternative assets. They're hedging their positions and setting themselves up so that their probability of coming out ahead is much greater than you're standard "it either goes up or down" stock movement.

A simple example is the "wheel" strategy in options. A short put at a .30 delta on the underlying, assuming 1 stddev movements gives about a 70% chance of collecting the premium without assignment (of course this isn't perfectly true, it's an approximation). This is already better than buying the stock, which under the same methodology, would have a 50% chance of profit (either going up or down from the purchase price). When assigned, turn around and open a short call against the assigned shares at a similar delta and repeat. In the flat market we've seen the last year or so, this is reasonably profitable and very low effort.

Edit: The reason the "buy and hold an index forever" strategy is recommended is because it's the lowest effort, highest probability of profit strategy one can probably take. I agree with it entirely for 99.9% of people. But that's not to say there isn't other opportunity out there if you're willing to learn about it.

Source: spent a few years at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange working on these sorts of things exchange side and now trade regularly on my own.

Picking up those pennies in front of a bulldozer... Agreed, you can structure trades to greatly improve your risk/return. There are whole other levels of investing like selecting how to interact with capital structures or even the market microstructure of how the trades work.

No this is actually a good strategy if you want small gains of 20%~ per year. The idea is you are long on the stock but you run the wheel against it so you make money without the downside risk, since you are planning to bag hold it. A lot of people who don't trade don't understand there are lots of ways to make money in the market.

Edit: I posted in my history a way to automate something like this.

> Picking up those pennies in front of a bulldozer

That is not what I'm advocating at all.

It's interesting to read how Buffett and Munger made their money. They definitely didn't make it by investing in index funds.

What Munger is really encouraging in his talks is intelligent allocation of money, knowing the boundaries of your knowledge, educating yourself, and recognizing basic human psychological shortcomings (like mistaking speculating for investing).

What exactly is the analogy being drawn here?

The more appropriate analogy is that trading stocks is like gambling. And it's not even analogy. Unless you really know what you're doing, trading stocks is gambling, just with less house edge.

I think what your talking about is speculating vs investing - the term Benjamin Garnham uses.

Exactly. Few people get the difference.

Speculative trading is not investing.

Professional trading, esp with leverage, is extraordinarily difficult to gain the required mentality, discipline, knowledge, and skills be consistently profitable. The common saying is that 90% fail, I believe it's higher, perhaps much higher. Learning trading was the most difficult thing I've done in my life. It's hard in a way most people don't grasp.

Yes, I'm talking about speculating though the difference is basically just in the holding duration of your stocks. If you're trading every day, that's speculation. If you buy and hold for 10 years, that's investing.

Not less but unknown

The house is your broker and their commissions plus the spread - the edge. So, the edge is very well known.

Stock trading is to wealth management as opiates/painkillers are to pain management. Both can be part of a larger strategy that leads to an optimal outcome while minimizing risk, but the average layperson might not be able to accurately gauge/understand how minimize this risk. The argument then is consumer-facing stock trading services create a moral hazard similar to the one created by unscrupulous doctors or your neighborhood drug dealer.

Markets are like crack: very addicting. Futures especially. It can be an unhealthy obsession where you cannot sleep, constantly doing a prediction loop watching where the market goes 24 hours a day, sleep deprived, drawn to the ticks up and down.

This obsession with index funds is getting a little out of hand. Sure for many people buying an index might be a good idea. I myself recommend that many people buy an S&P 500 index. But to criticize all active managers is a little wrong. For one, Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger are active managers themselves, you do not see them buying an index fund.

Lets think about what happens when you buy the S&P 500 index. This is usually the most recommended index, and the one I recommend too. You basically give your money to own stocks of the 500 biggest publicly listed companies in the US. If a company is big enough and it gets their stock listed on the major markets it usually gets included in the S&P 500. (There are some exceptions but generally this is the way it works). Does that make these companies good investments? Not necessarily. There is a way to get big without being especially good at what you do (through mergers). It is possible that certain companies were very good investments before, had their stock appreciate, got into the S&P 500, had a change of management or experienced a change of end markets, and became bad investments. This is what happened to GE, for example.

The theory of indexing says that, yes there will be some companies in the S&P 500 that are not very good, but others will be excellent and it will all even itself out and you will make money in general as the economy grows. But that will only work if there are no secondary effects. If putting all money in indexes becomes the usual course of action for institutions as well as individuals then it would be very easy to exploit this. A company just needs to get large enough to get send to the S&P 500 (again this can be done with mergers and without necessarily being very successful or profitable) and then they get a bunch free money send their way by way of indexing. And if you get a bunch of badly run companies merging together to get into the index, indexing will certainly become a rather money losing proposition.

The reason why indexing tends to work and it has worked so far, is that indexers are kind of free riding on active investors. Active investors buy and sell stocks and they thus cause the price to move up and down. The price of the most wanted companies moves up and they get put into the top indexes, where the free riding index investors buy their shares. The active investors do not mind because they were first into the shares, and the free riders just increase the value of their holdings. The free riders do not mind because the active investors in a way pick stocks for them.

This all works fine but the whole system relies on there being enough active investors to free ride upon. And if this whole buying indexes trend goes out of hand there might not be.

Buffet and Munger have some good cause to criticize active managers. Many of them have not been very good at all. Money management is one of those professions where it is not easy to determine ahead of time where someone is good or bad at it. Even excellent money managers can have a couple of bad years and terrible money managers can get lucky once or twice. Thus, you have to wait several years to see whether someone is actually good at managing money and during that time they actually have to have money to manage. So to even test whether someone is a good money manager requires taking on a lot of risk. And because being a money manager can be so very lucrative and glamorous and because it is so hard to distinguish the good ones from the bad ones the whole field attracts a lot of smooth operators that know how to ape the look and talk of a person the public would expect to be a successful money manager but they do not know how to do it.

This is a problem with many other professions that are glamorous but where it is hard to initially tell the good from the bad. These include TV/Movie director, TV/Movie writer, politician, newspaper column writer, artist etc.

That being said there are money managers that are undoubtedly very good. Buffet and Munger are themselves a couple of examples. There are many others. Perhaps there aren't enough of them. Perhaps we as an economy are having a problem of not being able to train and recognize able money managers. That may be the case, but that does not mean we should abandon the concept of an active investor. The world actually needs active investors, money managers and asset alocators in general. The dream of simple, cheap and easy passive investing cannot work without them.

I really like to listen to Munger, Buffett, Dalio and recordings of Jack Bogle.

These guys have won the game, they are trying to teach others how to do it. We have much to gain, just by listening.

Non facetious question, did they make their money doing what they're suggesting (passive investing), or do they have the knowledge that for most people passive is the best answer?

I guess I answered myself (the second)

Since I know how to trade stocks, but find that activity massively unpleasant, I guess I can assume that I wouldn't like heroin either?

I don't think anyone goes into heroin liking to put questionable needles into their body, but that's what they usually end up doing.

More like trading options

It is addictive like any other sort of gambling/speculation.

What about equity to employees? founders?

and r/wsb is like the flophouse I guess?

I heard that if you give opiates to patients at a hospital they don't get addicted because it is in a controlled environment where the patient is not seeking out those drugs for pleasure. If someone is getting heroin off the streets, the are looking to fill a void and it's perfect for that ( not perfect for your health or lifestyle obviously ). Obviously if people are looking to stocks as a gambler does, it can be like an addiction. Whereas if people are looking to trade stocks as a principled investor, this analogy does not apply.

> I heard that if you give opiates to patients at a hospital they don't get addicted because it is in a controlled environment where the patient is not seeking out those drugs for pleasure.

I am not sure if this is sarcasm, and I don't think it is, but just want to mention that I can't always tell on the Internet.

In-hospital opiate use can be important. But, there is good reason to believe that people using opiates appropriately for pain can still ultimately develop dependence and may develop addiction. Opiates have an important role right now, but the "fifth vital sign" is one of the things that presumably got us into big trouble with the current opiate crisis. We should tread lightly.

I know this is slightly off-topic, but if since the whole topic is reasoning by analogy, it seems worth a brief mention.

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