Is belief the drug? Yes, according to pain research

Is belief the drug? Yes, according to a recent study. If the subjects were told that something was going to be painful, their mind made it so, further giving evidence to the power of belief and the placebo/nocebo effect. Here’s the story, first reported by the BBC

Date: 16th February 2011

Source: BBC News

is belief the drug“A patient’s belief that a drug will not work can become a self fulfilling prophecy, according to researchers. They showed the benefits of painkillers could be boosted or completely wiped out by manipulating expectations.

Experts said this could have important consequences for patient care and for testing new drugs.

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Then, without changing the dose, the patients were then told the painkiller had been withdrawn and to expect pain, and the score went up to 64.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.

Professor Irene Tracey, from Oxford University, told the BBC: “It’s phenomenal, it’s really cool. It’s one of the best analgesics we have and the brain’s influence can either vastly increase its effect, or completely remove it.”

The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, also identifies…”

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