Considered the drug of choice for treating chronic pain, opioids appear to be no better than their non-opioid counterparts, according to a recent study published in the journal JAMA in March 2018. One of the standard approaches followed by the medical fraternity for managing pain is using opioids despite the associated risk of addiction. In addition to being no better than over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in managing pain, the researchers found opioids to be comparatively less effective in controlling the intensity of pain.
According to the study, when it came to treating chronic musculoskeletal pain, opioids fared no better than the non-opioid alternatives. The study, the first-of-its-kind randomized trial, made a head-to-head comparison between opioids and other pain medicines. Challenging the standard viewpoint, the researchers did not find opioids to be more effective than other safer alternatives.
Opioid abuse continues to be a serious public health issue in the United States. As per the statistics, on an average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. The persistent increase in overdose deaths is driving the opioid epidemic. The number of fatalities due to opioid crisis increased to around 42,249 lives in 2016. The driving force behind the exacerbation of opioid crisis is the increased prescription of opioid painkillers.
As per the trial results, throughout the length of the study, those who took opioids fared no better than those who consumed non-opioids. In fact, patients who took non-opioid drugs, such as ibuprofen, lidocaine and Tylenol experienced more pain relief than those who took opioids, such as oxycodone, morphine and Vicodin. According to Dr. Erin E. Krebs, M.D., MPH, lead study researcher, “Overall, opioids did not demonstrate any advantage over non-opioid medications that could potentially outweigh their greater risk of harms.”
The yearlong randomized clinical included 240 patients (mean age around 58.3 years) and compared the effects of both opioid and non-opioid medicines used for chronic pain. The patients were selected from the Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care clinics from June 2013 to Dec. 2016. They reported moderate to severe chronic back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis pain despite taking painkillers. During the study, the participants were randomly assigned opioids or other painkillers. Given that one’s perception could have an impact on the study outcomes, both the doctors and patients knew about the details of their groups.
During the study, all patients were administered low dosages of pain medicines, which were gradually increased. While those in the opioid group were given morphine and oxycodone, those in non-opioid group were provided acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). As per the researchers, opioids did not demonstrate any advantage over non-opioid medications in improving pain over a 12-month time. The researchers also discovered that while the rates of hospitalizations and ER visits were similar in both the groups, the patients in the opioid group faced significantly more problems with medication-related symptoms.
Interestingly, when rated on the scale of zero to 10 of severity of pain, the average score for the opioid group was 4 and non-opioid group was 3.5. Compared to 54 percent of the participants on non-opioids, around 41 percent on opioids witnessed at least 30 percent improvement in their pain. Moreover, the effect of both the medications on sleep, work, mood, etc. was almost same. Except anxiety, other symptoms like depression and sexual function were improved at the same rate by both opioids and non-opioids. Given the results of the clinical trial, initiating opioid therapy as a first-line treatment for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee joint pain might not be a good idea.
If you know someone battling an addiction to opioids, it’s time to provide professional help and treatment to these individuals. Representatives at the 24/7 Recovery Helpline can help you or your loved one find the best residential drug rehab in your vicinity. Our representatives can help you learn more about opioid addiction, identify its symptoms and connect to the best of treatment providers near your location.
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