Painkillers just as effective as opioids, study reports

Scientists have discovered that over-the-counter painkillers may be used as an alternative to opioids.
By Jason Spencer | Nov 10, 2017
Simple, over-the-counter painkillers may be just as effective as opioids when it comes to fighting pain, new researchpublished in the journal JAMA reports.

This new finding is important because America's opioid epidemic continues to grow with each passing year. More than 500,000 people have died from drug overdoses since 2000, and opioids were the cause of a lot of those deaths. As a result, doctors have been attempting to find more effective ways to help patients deal with pain.

This study may provide an answer.

"The results did surprise me," said study co-author Andrew Chang, a professor of emergency medicine at Albany Medical Center, according to TIME. "Most physicians reflexively give opioids to patients with fractures or broken bones. This study lends evidence that opioids aren't always necessary even in the presence of fractures."

 

In the study, researchers from the Albany Medical Center analyzed whether alternative painkillers could help treat pain in emergency rooms of hospitals. They looked at over 400 people who came to two different emergency rooms in the Bronx for strains, sprains, or fractures. Then, they randomly assigned either non opioid painkillers -- a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Tylenol) -- or one of three variations of opioid-based pain killers to the subjects.

After two hours, the doctors asked the subjects to rate their pain on an 11-point scale and compared the different responses. This showed that the generic pills did as much to quell pain as more advanced opioids.

This discovery is important because it could change the way doctors prescribe painkillers. Addiction is a serious problem, and it will only continue to grow unless something is done. Switching away from opioids could be a step in the right direction.

"Preventing new patients from becoming addicted to opioids may have a greater effect on the opioid epidemic than providing sustained treatment to patients already addicted," Demetrios Kyriacou, an emergency medicine specialist at Northwestern University, wrote in an accompanying editorial, according to The Washington Post.

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