opioid epidemic

Chronic pain patients don’t fare much better taking opioids to manage their pain than they do by  taking placebos, a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

For the study researchers conducted 96 clinical trials, and 26,169 patients with noncancer chronic pain patients received the placebo.

Substance abuse disorder patients and patients diagnosed with mental illness were excluded from the trial.

The study estimated the number of patients a physician would need to treat  before one experienced significant improvement with opioids. For pain, it’s about eight patients; for physical functioning, its 12 patients, and for sleep quality it’s 17 patients, the study’s author told CNN.

Researchers found opioid benefits decreased over time and came with the  risk of side effects such as vomiting, dependence and/or overdose.

“The benefits of opioids for managing chronic pain tend to be quite modest,” said study author Jason Busse, MD, associate professor in the department of anesthesia at McMaster University’s school of medicine in Ontario, Canada.