NEW ORLEANS -- The opioid epidemic in the United States has claimed countless lives. As officials try and figure out ways to fight it, a new study released this week could change how doctors treat pain.
"Today, this epidemic of pain medicine is just out of control," said Greg Dill.
Dill is a recovering addict, and the CEO of the Louisiana Adult, Teen Challenge, a program that helps addicts through their recovery.
"Pain pills got to be a big problem for me," Dill said.
Knowing first-hand how opioids can affect someone, he has been a longtime advocate for change. Especially, when it comes to prescribing painkillers.
"Someone who'd never had an addiction before -- we're seeing this now -- never had an addiction before might be in their 20's or 30's, housewives, you know never had any problem at all will have some sort of surgery and the doctors will put them on this pain medicine and they end up getting addicted to this pain medicine," Dill said.
However, new findings are challenging the practice of prescribing narcotic painkillers to patients.
Over the course of a year, the Journal of the American Medicine Association studied 411 injured adults. Results showed those who took over the counter painkillers like Ibuprofen, essentially felt the same relief as the patients who took an opioid. Both groups also took acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol.
"Most of the physicians practicing now grew up in this time period of early on being told that opioid medications are not addictive and being told that we have to cure pain," said Gregory Stewart M.D. "I think we're now coming and realizing that what we were taught, and what everybody said was the way to do it, is not the right way of doing this."
Stewart specializes in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Tulane Medical Center. He says the study is a good starting point.
"We have to readjust," he said. "We have a large number of people who are on opioid medications that we have to find a way to get them off. But I think this gives us a good starting point to not use those kinds of medications to begin with. That we can use the acetaminophen."
And as the conversation on how to battle this national epidemic continues, people like Dill hope those in the medical field are listening.
"Quite often, over the counter pain medicine is sufficient," he said. "It'd be an advantage to the population if doctors would try that first."