In the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic, a new survey of Americans has found that most prefer to try a non-drug approach to treating their pain over taking medications prescribed by their doctor.
The new report, part of the Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Annual Study of Americans, surveyed about 6,300 adults. Nearly two thirds said that they had neck or back pain so great they sought a health care provider for relief, and 54% said they had neck or back pain for at least five years. Yet 78% said they preferred to try other ways to address their physical pain before taking drugs.
Still, many Americans said they have taken painkillers—both prescription and non-prescription—for their pain. 70% took a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin, in the last year, and 25% took opioids.
Of the non-drug options for pain, Americans believed that physical therapy was the safest and most effective, followed by chiropractic care. Both methods were rated higher than prescription drugs for effectiveness and perceived safety. Other methods included back surgery and self care, but they were not as popular.
The popularity of alternative methods for treating pain—and the high desire to avoid prescription drugs—may reflect Americans' attitudes toward opioids in general. In a 2016 survey, 44% of Americans said they viewed opioids as a "crisis" or a "very serious problem" for their area.
"While public perceptions of options for drug-free pain management vary, these findings suggest that Americans are aware of the dangers associated with opioid misuse and are open to drug-free alternatives for pain management," the study authors write. "These developments could be a sign of a future where patients and healthcare professionals alike are trying drug-free treatment options before relying on opioids."