Study: Basic painkillers can be just as effective as opioids

The new study found that simple, non-opioid alternatives work just as well for patients with broken bones or fractures


By EMS1 Staff

ALBANY, N.Y. — A new study found that simple painkillers are just as effective as opioids when treating certain kinds of pain in emergency departments.

Time reported that the study observed more than 400 patients from two emergency rooms for fractures and sprains. They received either non-opioid painkillers such as Tylenol, or an opioid-based painkiller. The doctors asked the patients to rate their pain after two hours, and researchers said they did not see a big difference between the two groups.

Doctors gave 400 patients either non-opioid painkillers such as Tylenol, or an opioid-based painkiller and asked them to rate their pain.
Doctors gave 400 patients either non-opioid painkillers such as Tylenol, or an opioid-based painkiller and asked them to rate their pain. (Photo/AP)

“The results did surprise me,” study author Dr. Andrew Chang said. “Most physicians reflexively give opioids to patients with fractures or broken bones. This study lends evidence that opioids aren’t always necessary even in the presence of fractures.”

Dr. Chang stressed that the study only looked at pain caused by arm or leg injuries, but it shows that opioid prescriptions can be reduced in this situation.

Dr. Chang said the study prompted him to have conversations with his fracture patients about non-opioid options.

“I also have a discussion with them about the risks of addiction because we know that a certain percentage of patients exposed to opioids are going to become addicted,” he said. “One way to help decrease the epidemic is to decrease the number of people exposed. And changing physician prescribing practices is also an important way to control the epidemic.”

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