Over-the-Counter Pain Medication as Effective as Opioid/Narcotic Painkillers
등록일 2019년 01월 07일 수요일
수정일 2017년 11월 08일 수요일

Photo By congerdesign via Pixabay 

The researchers from the Albany Medical College and Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that a combination of two non-addictive over-the-counter pain meds can relieve acute pain of the arms, shoulders, hips, and legs just like opioid pain meds.

Hospital emergency departments are one of the contributors in feeding the epidemic of narcotic painkiller addiction.In a study published in 2014, there was an increase in prescription of opioid analgesics by US emergency departments from 21 percent to 31 percent.Another study in 2015 also 'showed that 17 percent of patients who had never taken opioid pain meds but were given such prescription for short-term pain, were still taking the narcotic pain reliever a year after.

Although not all patients become addicted to opioid pain medication, at least eight percent of patients who did take narcotic pain relievers developed opioid use disorder.About 15 percent to 26 percent engaged in problematic behaviors after taking such medication.

In the recent study, patients were assigned evenly to one of four groups, in which each group has been classified with a type or combination of pain medications.One group received a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen tablets, common in Advil and Tylenol.The second group received a prescription narcotic Percocet, a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen.The third group received Vicodin which is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen.The last group received Tylenol 3, a combination of codeine and acetaminophen.The findings suggested that patients who received the acetaminophen-ibuprofen combination reported pain relief similar with patients who were treated by narcotic painkillers.In simple terms, all of the treatments for pain performed similarly.

"I would have thought that people who came to an ER with pain that could be managed with just pills wouldn't be given opioids.The fact that investigators thought the question needed to be answered is sort of an indicator of how oriented we are to using opioids for pain, even when simpler and safer approaches might work just as well," said Dr.David Clark, a professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine at Stanford University.

The research team led by Dr.Andrew K.Chang of Albany Medical College noted in their study that the combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen outperformed narcotic painkillers in a variety of patients.

Opioid or Narcotic Painkillers

When you have a mild headache or some shoulder pain, it is commonly treated with OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen or paracetamol.However, your doctor may recommend something stronger than common pain meds when dealing with severe pain.Stronger pain medications usually involve opioids or narcotic painkillers to manage the severe pain.The opioid pain meds work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of your body.It decreases the pain messages to the brain, thus reducing the feelings of pain.However, narcotic painkillers have serious side effects if incorrectly used.

- constipation

- drowsiness

- nausea and vomiting

- breathing issues

- chest pain

- irregular heartbeat

- heart attack

- death

Narcotic painkillers may also cause dangerous side effects if taken with alcohol, some antidepressants, antihistamines, and sleeping pills.If you continue to use such pain medication, you can develop dependence on the drug and drastic discontinuation may lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, muscle pain, anxiety, and irritability.You can avoid drug dependence on narcotic pain meds by taking them properly with the instructions provided by your doctor.


Photo By Brandon Giesbrecht via Flickr

Recommendations for Narcotic Painkiller Use

Clinicians must consider three areas before recommending the use of narcotic painkillers.The clinician must determine first when to start or resume narcotic pain meds for patients with chronic pain.Then they will select the appropriate narcotic pain meds, the right amount of dosage, the maximum duration of use, follow-up on the well-being of the patients, and discontinue the medication if it is not needed anymore.Finally, the patient should be assessed for any risk caused by narcotic painkillers and the clinicians must address the side effects of the prescription pain meds.

Certain patient conditions should also be taken into consideration before prescribing narcotic painkillers.Patients with sleep-disordered breathing, sleep apnea, heart failure, and obesity must be given cautious dosage and closely monitored for safety reasons.Use of narcotic painkillers in pregnant women may affect the outcome of the mother and the fetus.Other cases, such as patients with liver or kidney problems, patients with ages 65 or older, patients with mental health conditions, and patients with a history of substance use must be reviewed by the clinician for narcotic painkiller use.

Additional Information

- More than 180,000 people died from prescription narcotics overdose from 1999 to 2015.

- An estimated one out five patients is receiving a prescription for narcotic painkillers for non-cancer pain or pain-related diagnoses.

- About 11 percent of adults experience pain every day.

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