Non-opioid pain relief outperforms opioids for chronic pain, study shows

Renea Molden was able to stop taking opioid painkillers with the help of non-opioid alternatives

Renea Molden was able to stop taking opioid painkillers with the help of non-opioid alternatives

But it turns out that this reputation may be a myth.

Krebs' study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday, finds opioids are no better than non-opioid medications when it comes to treating patients with some of the most common types of chronic pain.

At the end of 12 months, the opioid group scored an average 3.4 on the function scale, and the nonopioid group 3.3, an insignificant difference.

"Within a few weeks or months of taking an opioid on a daily basis, your body gets used to that level of opioid, and you need more and more to get the same level of effect", she said. While there are many conditions that can cause chronic pain, like autoimmune diseases, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and fibromyalgia, only back pain and hip or knee pain from osteoarthritis were included in the study.

Oxycodone pain pills. A new study following patients being treated for chronic pain found that those taking opioid-based pain pills didn't experience less pain than those taking over-the-counter pain relievers. And being on high doses of opioid medications can kill us.

The epidemic is worsening, new CDC data show.

A report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found emergency rooms saw a big jump in overdoses from opioids previous year. The biggest jumps were in the Midwest and in cities, but increases occurred nationwide. In the Northeast, the largest increases were in DE, with 105 percent, and Pennsylvania, with 81 percent.

Krebs and her team divided 240 Veterans Affairs patients with lower back pain, or with hip or knee pain from osteoarthritis, into two groups.

After a year, about 60 percent of patients in each group experienced significant improvements in their ability to perform daily functions without pain interfering.

When Dr. Erin Krebs was in medical school in the '90s, she was taught to avoid prescribing opioids long-term because the drugs were addictive. This was measured with a patient reported checklist. Doctors and patients knew what group they were in, said Krebs, and that was deliberate because people's expectations can influence how they feel.

The results "will be surprising for a lot of people", Krebs said.

The study didn't explore why, but Krebs has a theory: opioid tolerance. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

While opioids provide potent relief for acute pain, that doesn't necessarily translate to a chronic-pain situation, where the pain often becomes disassociated from the original injury.

This study found that side effects were more common among the people taking the opioids. The government agency concluded there was "insufficient evidence" for their long-term benefits, but plenty of evidence for harm.

While the study may have useful implications for the specific type of chronic pain studied, the study is being touted by many as evidence that in general, opioids aren't more effective than over-the-counter and non-opioid pain medication - which many people with chronic pain say is incorrect. "That is why this is so important".

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