© 2020 by Sanford Severin, MD

Dr. Sanford L. Severin

San Ramon, CA 94582 USA


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Can You Get By Without Taking That Opiate Pill?

June 1, 2018

Traditionally opiates are the number one drug used for acute severe pain. Abuse of opiates is a national crisis. The opiate epidemic is responsible for an increasing number of addictions and deaths. For example more than 42,000 deaths from opiates were reported in 2016. Sometimes the addiction was initiated by a doctor’s prescription. More often the addict got the pills illegally on the street. However it happened the problem is not only real but it is growing as more and more citizens are introduced to these addicting medications.


A important question that must be asked is whether the use of opiates is absolutely necessary for pain relief. Is there an alternative? A young female physician, Dr. Erin Krebs, thought about this and conceived of a “dream study” that had never been done. This was to create a long term randomized controlled trial comparing opioids with non opioids for treating severe chronic pain.


In the study patients were randomly assigned to either an opioid group or a non opioid group followed for a period of time. the results were eye-opening. 


Patients given alternative drugs did just as well as those taking opioids! It is not necessary in many instances to use an opiate for chronic pain. 


In spite of this statement opiates are still widely prescribed for chronic pain.It is possible in many instances to prescribe a non addicting drug instead of an addicting drug, but changing practice patterns is not easy even in the face of a crisis. 


The take away message is clear. There is no substitute for an opiate for treating acute and very painful surgical pain. This should be for a finite period of time. After that and with with chronic pain please give a non opiate a trial.


The next time your physician or dentist wants you to use an opioid think about it. Ask yourself whether you really need that pill. Instead try 800 milligram tablets of ibuprofen. You may be surprised at how well it will works for you. Your pain may be relieved and you not have to worry about becoming addicted.


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