A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics in May 2019 reported on the results of a broad study in Canada to see how chiropractic care could affect the usage of opioids in patients suffering from chronic pain. The study titled; "System Dynamics to Investigate Opioid Use and Chiropractic Care for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain" looked at health care records from 2000 to 2015 to see what effect the usage of chiropractic would have on chronic pain patients who were, or would be using opioids to treat their pain.
This study was put together using a large volume of data from other studies and information from governmental sources. The authors of the study noted that people suffering with musculoskeletal pain, particularly chronic lower back pain, were one of the main groups who would most likely be using opioids for the pain and therefore be most at risk for opioid addiction. The researchers then used currently available data in Canada and the U.S. to forecast what effect an increase in chiropractic would have on opioid usage and addiction.
The study created three categories of population study. The first was people who had chronic pain and were first seeking care from either an MD or a chiropractor. The second group were those under medical care with opioids who then added chiropractic to their care for pain. The third group were those who were already opioid dependent or addicted, and then were adding chiropractic care.
Using data currently available, the researchers were able to project the effect adding chiropractic would have on each of the three groups. The results of this projection would be used to create a model for a large-scale clinical trial which could be used on actual patient populations. Short of actually having such a study, this study gives as close a view of results of chiropractic care affecting opioid usage as is available from current data.
The results of their study showed that in each of the three groups, the introduction of chiropractic for patients with chronic pain had not only a benefit for the patient's pain issues, but also had a statistical positive reduction on the usage and dependency of opioid for those patients.
In the group that sought chiropractic early, the researchers were able to show that there would be a decrease in people ever using opioids and therefore a decrease in both addiction and deaths. In the group that was already using opioids but was not yet dependent, the researchers also showed a decrease usage of the opioids with an accompanied decrease in addictions and deaths. In the group that was already addicted to opioids, there was less of statistical reduction in opioid related problems, but the number was still significant enough to show benefits for those individuals.
Even though the results of this study were projections of possible effects, the data showed that the number of people who would become addicted is reduced when chiropractic care is either introduced early or during patient care for pain. This also would cause a decrease in the related deaths from opioids.