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Over-the-Counter Pain Pills Just as Potent as Opioids in ER Patients

09 November 2017

- Emergency rooms are where many patients are first introduced to powerful opioid painkillers, but what if doctors offered over-the-counter pills instead? The research, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen and acetaminophen relieved symptoms of pain as effectively as narcotics like oxycodone.

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One of the study's limitations is that it only evaluated short-term pain relief while the patients were in the ER.

But given the scope of the USA opioid epidemic - more than 2 million Americans are addicted to opioid painkillers or heroin - experts say any dent in the problem could be meaningful. A recent study finds that basic painkillers are as effective as opioids in treating ER pain.

The investigation included 411 grown-ups treated in two crisis rooms at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

The study looked at three opioids - oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine - and compared them to higher-than-over-the-counter doses of a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, both of which are not opioids. Patients who participated in the study came with a variety pain concerns such as leg fractures, leg and arm strains, and sprains.

The findings have implications for countering the growing problem of opioid dependence and abuse, said principal investigator Andrew Chang, MD, of Albany Medical College in NY.

"Keeping new patients from getting to be noticeably dependent on opioids may greaterly affect the opioid pandemic than giving maintained treatment to patients officially dependent", Dr. Demetrios Kyriacou, a crisis solution pro at Northwestern University, wrote in a going with publication.

The patients were asked to rate their pain on a 10-point scale before taking the medication and again two hours later.

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.