A yearlong study offers rigorous new evidence against using prescription opioids for chronic pain.
In patients with stubborn back aches or hip or knee arthritis, opioids worked no better than over-the-counter drugs or other nonopioids at reducing problems with walking or sleeping. And they provided slightly less pain relief,
Opioids tested included generic Vicodin, oxycodone or fentanyl patches although few patients needed the most potent opioids. Nonopioids included generic Tylenol, ibuprofen and prescription pills for nerve or muscle pain. The study randomly assigned patients to take opioids or other painkillers. That’s the gold standard design for research.
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. […]
About 42,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016 involved opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl. Many people get hooked while taking opioids prescribed for injuries or other short-term pain and move on to cheaper, more accessible illicit drugs like heroin.
Krebs said the strongest evidence from other studies shows that physical therapy, exercise or rehabilitation therapy works best for chronic pain. And she said noted that there are a variety of nonopioid drugs to try if one type doesn’t work.
The study is here.