After a year long study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, results show that opioids work no better than OTC drugs or other non-opioid based medications at diminishing pain in walking or sleeping issues, with less pain relief than non-prescribed medications.
Opioid medications examined included Vicodin, Oxycodone, and Fentanyl patches, the most potent and commonly prescribed medications that some say are to blame for the current opioid crisis that faces America today. The opioid based pain medications were compared to generic versions of Tylenol, Ibuprofen and prescription pills for nerve or muscle pain, such as muscle relaxers. Participants were randomly assigned opioid pain killers or generic over the counter non-opioid medications. As per the norm for studies such as this.
“If they don’t work better than less risky drugs, there’s no reason to use opioids given ‘their really nasty side effects — death and addiction,’ said lead author Dr. Erin Krebs, a physician and researcher with the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System.
Finding the results unsurprising, Krebs said “because opioids have this reputation as being really powerful painkillers, and that is not what we found,”
It should be noted that this particular study had all male participants, but Dr. Krebs’s mentioned that the results in women that were studied were very similar.
In the study posted on Tuesday, results showed less severe conclusion to pain sufferers and instead aided in the idea of not using routine opioid medications for chronic pain, but instead to use other less abused alternatives.
Due to the recent 42,000 drug overdose deaths in the nation in 2016, many relating to opioids including heroin, prescription painkillers and fentanyl, the results of this study have been on many American’s minds. No good deed goes unpunished, and many patients become addicted to the opioid medications given to them for short term pain or injuries, and some then move onto less expensive illegal drugs.
“This is a very important study,” said Dr. David Reuben, geriatrics chief at UCLA’s medical school. “It will likely change the approach to managing long-term back, hip and knee pain.”
Alternatively, the strongest testimony to managing chronic pain lies in physical therapy, rehabilitation therapy and exercise. There are also non-opioid drugs one could try if one type doesn’t work.
U.S. federal government standards in 2016 stated opioids are not the favored treatment for persistent pain and they suggest non-drug treatment or nonopioid pain relievers rather. Opioids should just be utilized if other approaches do not work for chronic pain the standards advise. Recommending rates have actually decreased somewhat over the last few years although they are still much higher than twenty years earlier.
The research study included 234 clients from Minneapolis-area VA centers who were appointed to use generic variations of opioids or nonopioids for a year. Follow-up ended in 2016.
The patients who received the opioids began on relatively lower daily doses of morphine, oxycodone of generic Vicodin such as hydrocodone. They were given higher does on an as needed basis or switched to fentanyl patches.
The patients who received the non opioid medications were given acetaminophen, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs. They were given the option to switch to higher doses or prescription non-opioid pain medications. Very few in either group used that option to use the stronger medicines.
In the patients questionnaires, they reported changes in pain or function. In both groups, function scored improved by about two points on an 11-point scale, where the higher scores meant worse function. Each group started off relatively the same, with pain and function scores at 5.5.
Pain ferocity declined about two points in the nonopioid group and slightly less in the opioid group of patients.
Separate research has proved that over the counter medicines can also work as well as opioids at treating short term pain, even from broken bones, dental work and kidney stones.
Also published on Medium.