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00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980000Day after day, week after week, the headlines in Northeast Ohio and across much of the country contain news of tragic loss: lives lost to opioids. It’s a problem that knows no bounds: geography, race, gender, level of education or income.The problem took on new urgency this summer as the powerful elephant sedative, Carfentanil, began hitting the streets. First responders armed with their only weapon, the overdose antidote Naloxone, have struggled to keep up with what’s become an overwhelming problem. It’s an issue that’s straining public and social resources. What has become clear is that business as usual is not going to fix the problem.WKSU news has been covering the unfolding crisis. Tuesdays during Morning Edition, the WKSU news team digs even deeper. WKSU reporters will examine what’s led us here and what might be done to turn the tide. Support for Opioids: Turning the Tide in the Crisis comes from Wayne Savings Community Bank, Kent State University Office of Continuing and Distance Education, Hometown Grocery Delivery, Mercy Medical Center, AxessPointe Community Health Center, Community Support Services, Inc., Medina County District Library and Hudson Community First.00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980001

New Report Shows Ibuprofen-Acetominophen Mix Could Be Just As Effective As Opioids

photo of opioids

A new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association gauges the effectiveness of opioids for pain relief, and WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports on what researchers found out about the highly addictive medications.

Drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine were each combined with acetaminophen in the study of pain relief in ER patients. Then, ibuprofen was mixed with acetaminophen for an opioid-free combination. The study found that mix is just as effective when dealing with injuries like broken bones and sprains.

Dr. Baruch Fertel is director of quality for Cleveland Clinic’s emergency departments, and has evaluated the report. He says in cases like the ones studied, alternatives to opioids should be considered.

“If someone breaks their wrist, there’s going to be some pain. But looking at other opportunities: local anesthesia, nerve blocks, other forms of safer analgesia that don’t come with the risks of opioids.”

Dr. Fertel says there are many reasons opioids gained favor, including how they used to be viewed in medical schools.

“We were taught that pain should never occur. Pain is the fifth vital sign. And that opiates are safe medications. In reality, we know that that’s not really the case. And setting expectations to have zero or no pain is oftentimes dangerous because it builds dependencies on these medications.”

Dr. Fertel points out that the study’s authors looked at pain reduction only within the first two hours of a patient entering the ER. In the future, they plan to conduct trials on longer-term pain relief and on more serious injuries. He adds that opioids -- which were initially developed for chronic pain in cancer patients -- can still have a role in treatment. He cites people who need pain relief after surgery so they can start moving around again. In those cases, Dr. Fertel says the opioids should be de-escalated quickly once they’re no longer needed.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.