Were all familiar with the idea of mind over body effects. From mass hysteria to hypochondria, the brain is can be either a powerful ally or enemy when it comes to wellness. Self-help gurus have made millions off of writing books about the powers of positive thinking. They tell you all kinds of stories about how thinking positively can greatly affect your personal life and career, but isnt there more to it than that? New research believes so. In fact, a new study suggests that a persons attitude can affect how well their medications and treatments work.
Volunteers for a series of lab experiments were exposed to a short but intense burning sensation. Those who received painkillers and were told that it would work actually got noticeable relief from the pain. However, when the same volunteers were told that they would have to endure the pain without a painkiller, their discomfort increased. Their pain worsened even though they received the same dose of the same medication, simply because they were told that they wouldnt have any effect on their pain.
While some may ask what relevance this has to mainstream medicine, the answer comes more clearly to those who think more positively about it. While the pain that real patients suffer from cannot be completely accounted for in a lab setting, the theory alone that positive thinking among patients dealing with severe pain can potentially increase results from their medications could mean the difference between success or failure in their treatments altogether. What it also means is that these same patients may be able to reach success while taking in a smaller amount of medicine.
The one thing that a patient of any disease or condition has in common with another is that they WANT to get better. However, positive thinking about such situations is much easier said than done. With this simple lab test, there is now the possibility that the more positive an outlook someone has about their treatments, the better results they may receive from them.
The question now arises as to how these results may or may not impact the placebo effect. In many cases, placebos (sugar pills) can garner similar results to drugs just because a patient thinks theyre taking a prescription medication. There are also instances where even when patients are taking a drug, theyre results are minimized because of negative reports or experiences of others. The hope is that whether or not a patient is taking a major pharmaceutical product or not, they achieve results related to reversal of any negative conditions.
In this test, 22 volunteers were burned with a small heat source, and to counter the pain they were being given narcotic painkillers intravenously. During the periods when the volunteers were being told that the drug was being administered and would work, they had twice the amount of pain relief as when they were told they were receiving only saline solution. The pain relief wasnt even noticeable during the times when they were told that the drugs had been taken away altogether, even though they were receiving the same dosage the entire time.
To prove the mind-body connection, the volunteers were monitored via MRI during the experiments. When they were told that the drugs being administered would work, there was a significant increase in activity in areas of the brain that relate to fighting pain. Areas of the brain that involve anxiety were the ones that showed boosts when participants were expecting to feel pain. This research should prove to give doctors a better understanding of not only what medications to prescribe, but how to approach the patients about what to expect from the drugs. Ultimately, a reduction of prescription medication across the board should be the final goal.