Any medication like pain reliever may actually end up having less or no effect at all when the one taking it consciously thinks it doesn’t work.
A study done by researchers from Britain and Germany had yielded results indicating that a powerful painkilling drug with real biological effect can lose its effectives if a patient has been primed to expect it to fail.
The study made use of brain scans to map how a person’s feelings and past experiences can influence the effectiveness of medicines.
Meanwhile, positive expectations about the treatment can double the drug’s natural physiological or biochemical effect, according to the study which covered 22 healthy volunteers.
The researchers said that the placebo effect — and its opposite the nocebo effect – indicate that neural activity in certain brain areas could be monitored as a way to objectively gauge how well a drug is working for each patient.
“The brain imaging is telling us that patients really are switching on and off parts of their brains through the mechanisms of expectation — positive and negative,” according to Irene Tracy of Britain’s Oxford University, who led the research.
“The effect of expectations is powerful enough to give real added benefits of the drug, and unfortunately it is also very capable of overriding the true analgesic effect.”
Sometimes the placebo effect yields real benefit when patients are given dummy treatments but believe they will do them good, the research said.
It also noted that on the other hand, the nocebo effect is the opposite, when patients get real negative effects when they have doubts about a particular treatment.