The opioid crisis may have a simple solution. A recent study finds that basic painkillers are as effective as opioids in treating ER pain.

Managing Opioid Prescriptions

Findings of a new study come as a welcome development in the growing opioid crisis that already spanned several decades. The study seems to go back to the basic tenet of medical treatment by providing an effective therapy with the least harm to the patient.

Researchers found that a combination of over-the-counter medicines ibuprofen and acetaminophen is an effective pain management therapy in emergency departments. The study included 400 people who visited two emergency departments in Bronx, New York. Patients who participated in the study came with a variety pain concerns such as leg fractures, leg and arm strains, and sprains.

The patients received either a combination of Motrin and Tylenol or one of three different opioid-based pain relievers. To assess pain level, patients rated their pain on an 11-point scale after two hours of medication.

Upon comparison of the results, researchers noted that the pain ratings did not differ much between two groups suggesting that simple painkillers have an effect similar to opioid but without the possibility of addiction.

"Although this study focused on treatment while in the emergency department, if we can successfully treat acute extremity pain with a non-opioid combination painkiller in there, then we might be able to send these patients home without an opioid prescription," explained lead researcher Andrew Chang. He added that an important component of curbing opioid addiction or dependence is the reduction of access to prescriptions.

The study is published in the Journal of American Medical Association on Nov. 7.

The Opioid Epidemic In The United States

While doctors are reducing opioid prescriptions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that it is not enough. It is true that opioid prescriptions had an overall drop of 18 percent from 2010 to 2015, prescription rates remain high.

The recent report of the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the CDC showed that in the past three years, deaths due to fentanyl overdose increased by a staggering 540 percent. Data of the provisional counts of overdose deaths revealed (PDF) that Delaware had the biggest one-year percent change and Florida had the most number of deaths.

Fentanyl, a recreation drug since the 1970s, accounts for most overdose deaths in the United States.

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