Do prescription opioids help with chronic pain? A new study from the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System has found that prescription opioids pain medicines are no better than over the counter drugs or nonopioids at reducing problems with chronic pain – indeed opioids provide a slightly less pain relief in what many are describing as a ground-breaking research which will change the way doctors prescribe medicine. The opioid drugs tested included Vicodin, Oxycodone and Fentanyl patches. The non-opioids include generic Tylenol, ibuprofen and prescription pills for nerve or muscle pain.
The study was a gold standard in that it was a placebo controlled double blind study. The results will be surprising to many people and will hopefully change the way doctors prescribe opioid medicine given that there were 42,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States alone in 2016. Many people become addicted to opioid medication and then after the doctor no longer prescribe it they switch to cheaper options such as heroin or elicit fentanyl which is extremely dangerous on the black market.
The study found that for treating chronic pain, physical therapy, exercise or rehabilitation therapy works best for chronic pain rather than opioid medicine or even over the counter pain killers.
The study is significant as it involved 234 patients.
Patients reported changes in function or pain on questionnaires utilising an elven point scale. In both groups the change in the scale was approximately two points with the non-opioid patients and the opioid patients at slightly less than 2 points.
In addition to chronic pain the study also looked at back pain, and hip and knee arthritis, and made the same conclusions that opioids were no better than over-the-counter pills at relieving the pain from backpain, and hip and knee arthritis.
This latest research coincides with other research involving smaller studies in which over-the-counter medicines worked just as well as opioids at treating chronic pain, broken bones, kidney stones, or dental work.
The bottom line is if you are suffering from chronic pain due to a motor vehicle collision do not run the risk of becoming addicted to opiate medicine which will cause a significant problem for the rest of your life. Instead use over the counter pain killers such is ibuprofen and Tylenol as well as seeking out a well respected Physical Therapist to assist in your treatment. From a legal point of view in 28 years of practicing law as a personal injury lawyer I have found that insurance companies give little weight to opiate medicine use as an indicator of the severity of your pain. Indeed, some insurance companies even look upon it as a negative as you may be addicted to the opiate medicine and thus it is not a good indicator of your pain as you may be taking it to feed your addiction and not because you are in severe pain.