Even if your drugs are worth their money, new research suggests that the placebo effect is worth at least as much. A new study published in Science Translational Medicine reveals that a patient’s thoughts and beliefs can make or break a medicine, even if it’s been clinically tested and approved.
From the BBC, here’s a summary of the tests that were administered to measure the effects of drugs vs. mindset:
Heat was applied to the legs of 22 patients, who were asked to report the level of pain on a scale of one to 100. They were also attached to an intravenous drip so drugs could be administered secretly.
The initial average pain rating was 66. Patients were then given a potent painkiller, remifentanil, without their knowledge and the pain score went down to 55.
They were then told they were being given a painkiller and the score went down to 39.
Then, without changing the dose, the patients were then told the painkiller had been withdrawn and to expect pain, and the score went up to 64.
So even though the patients were being given remifentanil, they were reporting the same level of pain as when they were getting no drugs at all.
So how does this pan out for patients? Many are optimistic that our thoughts can influence how we respond to symptoms and drugs, and they also hope the study explains why some people are less responsive to treatment than others. Those who’ve attempted multiple treatment options for a chronic disease, for example, may be less likely to respond positively because they’ve already endured so much negative experience.
If this is all sounding a little too much like The Secret for your tastes, don’t worry. Doctors don’t seem to be telling us that we can manifest pain relief purely from the power of positive thinking just yet: “Rather than seeking to control for psychological components, trial designs could be developed that aim to maximize the effects of therapeutic agents by integrating the effects of expectation and active treatment,” said Professor Anthony Jones, of Salford Royal Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
via BBC News