Eighty percent of heroin users in America start the process with a physician-prescribed opioid for pain relief. Opioid drugs kill tens of thousands of people every single year leaving kids, spouses, and families behind. Opioid users and addicts begin as well-intentioned adults trying to live a normal pain-free life. The benefits of opioid medications are often reported to outweigh the risks associated with them because of their potency and ability to provide pain relief. Especially for the most challenging cases. Yet new research shows that NSAID medications performed better than opioids for people with consistent chronic pain lasting daily for six months or longer. These findings are remarkable and as follows:

  • The objective of the study was to compare opioid versus non-opioid drugs for subjects suffering from pain related function, pain intensity, and adverse effects related to a chronic condition. The study was a randomized clinical trial which involved 234 subjects.
  • The non-opioid medication used was acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Subjects had moderate to severe chronic back pain and hip or knee osteoarthritis pain. Chronic pain was defined as pain nearly every day for six months or more.
  • Outcome measurement devices and evaluations used were:
    • Pain related function, pain related physical function, pain intensity, quality of life measure, depression measure, anxiety disorder measure, sleep disturbance measure, migraine disability assessment, sexual experience scale, fatigue inventory, activity level, motivational skills, and balance scales.
  • Rising rates of opiate overdose deaths have raised questions about prescribing opioids for chronic pain management.
  • This study found that treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with non-opioid medications for improving pain related function over 12 months.
  • Pain intensity was significantly better in the non-opioid group over 12 months. While adverse medication-related symptoms were significantly more common in the opioid group.
  • Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain.
  • Opioids did not demonstrate any advantage over non-opioid medications which could potentially outweigh their greater risk of harm.
  • Studies have found that treatment with long-term opioid therapy is associated with poor pain outcomes, greater functional impairment, and lower return to work rates.
  • In conclusion, treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with non-opiate medications for improving pain related function over 12 months. Results do not support initiation of opiate therapy for chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain.

Shockingly, it turns out that the benefits of opioid medications do not outweigh risks when compared to other pain-relievers. This study more deeply reveals the need to acquire better solutions for chronic pain sufferers. The predominant recommendation for pain relief, especially for the most challenging cases, is opiate drugs. Yet opioid medications are now proven to not be as effective for pain relief in several conditions. NSAID drugs were shown to achieve better results than opioids. This makes chiropractic care even more important and relevant as a 2005 study showed chiropractic adjustments to be five times more effective in relieving pain than NSAID medications. And three times better at relieving pain than acupuncture. Chiropractors will continue to play a unique and important role in curbing the challenges related to the opioid and chronic pain epidemic.