Landmark JAMA Study Shows Over-the-Counter Pain Meds Work BETTER Than Deadly Opioids

SOURCE–As the nation and the medical establishment wrestles with a burgeoning opioid/opiate/heroin overdose epidemic, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the results of a new study which seems to indicate a possible solution to the over-prescribing of opiates. While a handful of providers disagree with some of the study’s findings, preliminary data shows opiates work no better than over-the-counter pain medicines for some types of chronic pain.

The researchers’ primary question was “for patients with moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain,” how does opioid medication compare with nonopioid medication result in managing chronic pain?

To answer the question a clinical trial was initiated involving 265 military veterans (receiving treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities) whose responses to a questionnaire were charted over a 12-month period. Initially, 25 of the participants withdrew from the study for unknown reasons.

The objective of the study was to “compare opioid vs nonopioid medications over 12 months on pain-related function, pain intensity, and adverse effects.”

The total number of participants were divided in two. The first group was given opioids, the second group was given readily available over-the-counter medicines.

Within the opioid group, “the first step was immediate-release morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone/acetaminophen” some of the same drugs for which tens of thousands of U.S. patients are using to the point of overdose and subsequent deaths.

For the non-opioid group, the medicines administered were “acetaminophen” (AKA Tylenol or paracetamol) or a “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug” (such as ibuprofen, AKA Advil, Aleve, etc.) According to the JAMA study, “medications were changed, added, or adjusted within the assigned treatment group according to individual patient response.”

Patients were then asked to describe their pain using the Brief Pain Inventory [BPI], a questionnaire assessing the presence of pain experienced. Additionally, they were asked to describe their “pain intensity” (BPI severity scale). For both BPI scales, the primary adverse outcome was “medication-related symptoms.”

At the end of the 12-month period of study, surprisingly, the non-opioid group fared better. “Pain intensity was significantly better in the nonopioid group over 12 months,” concluded the study with respondents reporting lower levels of chronic pain using medicines which are readily available over-the-counter in pharmacies. Additionally, the respondents who were not using opioids reported fewer side effects.

“Adverse medication-related symptoms were significantly more common in the opioid group over 12 months,” the study published in the Journal of American Medical Association reported. Aside from the obvious life-threatening side effects, common side effects of opioids include constipation, nausea, drowsiness, and itching.

Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with nonopioid medications for improving pain-related function over 12 months. Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain.

The study concluded not only did commonly found over-the-counter medications work better than opiates, they had fewer negative side effects. In chronic pain conditions where prescribers might normally write scripts for opioids, initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back, hip, or knee pain might best be avoided.

Still, those who are in the business of managing pain, disagree with the study and adamantly contend there is still a place for opiates in pain management therapy. We consulted with a pain-medication provider located in the Mid-West who wishes to remain anonymous. His state is one in which pain-management doctors have been targeted for increased state-level regulation. We will call him Dr. Kim.

Kim says his patients simply need something much more powerful to deal with their pain. He, too, uses the BPI scale and states the real-world numbers he sees in his clinic do not compare to the study’s findings.

I disagree…without narcotics…my pain patients with back pain…wouldn’t be able to function. They wouldn’t be able to do what we call activities of daily living.

While Dr. Kim disagrees, the fact that dozens of people successfully treated their chronic pain with something far safer than opioids with fewer side effects, and faster recovery, should not be overlooked.

It is also important to point out that access to cannabis—which arguably works better than opioids andover-the-counter medicines—is prohibited by the DEA’s classification of a plant as a drug. Currently, cannabis is a Schedule-I narcotic, even though it is a plant.

Dr. Kim is aware of the pain-relieving properties of cannabis but is disallowed by the DEA from recommending his patients try cannabis. Instead, he’s forced to prescribe medicines which are at the center of the opioid epidemic.

The results from the JAMA study should give providers the justification they need to prescribe over-the-counter medicines at prescription strength instead of extremely addictive opioids, knowing full well, in certain cases and conditions, not only do the OTC meds work better, but account for fewer side effects.

The use of opiates is still an option for providers to prescribe, but might better be prescribed by physicians like Dr. Kim, who deal mostly with patients who may have tried other options but still find themselves in pain.

8 Replies to “Landmark JAMA Study Shows Over-the-Counter Pain Meds Work BETTER Than Deadly Opioids

  1. Uh, no they don’t. It took me 3 months of horrible pain after three weeks of an oxy cough med Tussionex. I thought he gave me codeine, but no, the fk gave me oxy.

    I promise you, ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, naproxen, can’t touch oxy. That includes emotional pain, btw, which I hadn’t noticed until the 3 months of withdrawals.

    The weirdest thing of all at least for me, was as I was perservering through the pain of constant beatings with rubber hoses by eight men, was eventually, it would stop. One day, without a fade, it just stopped. What kind of poison is that stuff, man!? I don’t think people would have waited that long for the pain to stop, but I am SUPER stubborn.

  2. What people don’t understand until they’ve been there. Most people describe än intense pain as throbbing If you have if you have a level 10+ PAIN, a throbbing pain is somewhat of a relief. Imagine the most intense pain imaginable. Imagine a shrill sounding door bell, no let up, throbbing would bring some level of relief. Imagine being in such pain that even though you know the source, you feel it throughout your entire body instead of locally. Imagine not being able to be touched and can barely stand to have a sheet thrown over your naked body. Imagine being under such intense pain that you go crazy and want to cut yourself just to change the source of pain.

    Thought I’d share…some don’t know what a REAL owie is like!

  3. Article is full of shit! After breaking back and 8 surgeries to try and correct it, left messed up beyond hope. Over the counters could even begin to touch what I experience. Been this way over 20 years. SURVIVED those 20 years Because of REAL Pain Meds. Without them would have just given up 19 years ago.

  4. Tylenol and Ibuprofin are useless and have little to effect on pain. I am not sure they even work on head aches. I get more pain/headache relief from a glass of water… You want a mild pain killer non-addictive that works in minutes of consumption? It’s called marijuana. It works and doesn’t kill anyone. Thank god some states have some sane laws regarding the plant. The only other pain relief that works is opiod pills in comparison of drugs on the market.

    The person who commented on pain being so intense you want to cut yourself or the muscles that are in pain to relieve them, I have been there before and nothing over the counter would help. Going to call B. S. on this study.

  5. another lie. why are they trying to cover their asses? chronic pain is chronic pain.opioids are better for it than over the counter paid meds. motrin,advil wtc are more deadly than opiods.

  6. Why help people in pain when it is more profitable to keep them in it and sell your opiates on the black market?

    What most people don’t understand is that the Taliban had all but destroyed the opium trade by destroying the crops themselves. Unfortunately, the fields belonged to the CIA and are now guarded by the US military. Ever wonder why we invaded Afghanistan?

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