Despite the tremendous harm caused by mass prescriptions of opioids, the drugs themselves are no more effective than Tylenol or Advil when it comes to treating chronic pain, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study followed two groups of patients with moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis. One group was given non-opioid drugs such as Tylenol and ibuprofen. The other was given opioids including morphine, Vicodin, and oxycodone.
The two groups had very similar results. Any differences weren’t statistically significant, and in fact the Tylenol group actually fared slightly better in handling pain according to some measures.
“Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with nonopioid medications for improving pain-related function over 12 months,” the study concluded. “Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain.”
The study was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and involved VA patients. It should be noted that VA patients are an unusual group, and caution should be exercised in generalizing the results to other populations. Also, the results might not be generalizable to other types of pain, non-chronic pain (such as surgical pain), or treatments lasting longer than a year.