Being pessimistic may lower painkiller’s effectiveness: Study

Thursday, February 17, 2011

LONDON - A patient’s attitude may affect how well his/ her pain medication works, according to a new study.

It found that being optimistic might boost their effectiveness in blocking pain, while being pessimistic may lower their effectiveness, reports the BBC.

The study also identified the brain regions that are associated with pain.

The researchers used a heat source to cause pain to the 22 patients and scanned their brains while administering pain medication.

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Then, without changing the dose, the patients were then told the painkiller had been withdrawn and to expect pain, and the score went up to 64.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

“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,” Prof Irene Tracey from Oxford University told the BBC.

The study was conducted on healthy people who were subjected to pain for a short period of time.

She said people with chronic conditions who had unsuccessfully tried many drugs for many years would have built up a much greater negative experience, which could impact on their future healthcare.

“Doctors need more time for consultation and to investigate the cognitive side of illness, the focus is on physiology not the mind, which can be a real roadblock to treatment,” said Tracey.

Brain scans during the experiment also showed which regions of the brain were affected.

The expectation of positive treatment was associated with activity in the cingulo-frontal and subcortical brain areas while the negative expectation led to increased activity in the hippocampus and the medial frontal cortex.

Researchers also said the study raises concerns about clinical trials used to determine the effectiveness of drugs.

The study is published in Science Translational Medicine. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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