Painkillers Work Better When You Think Positive

17/02/2011 14:44 | Updated 22 May 2015

If you're interested in things that affect your health you've probably heard of the placebo effect - where expecting that a drug will work, even when it's just a dummy pill, can actually make it effective.

Believe a painkiller will work, and chances are it will be more effective. Photo: Alamy

Well the opposite may also be true, say UK and German researchers. In their study, published in the journal Science Translation Medicine, they scanned the brains of 22 volunteers experiencing pain and while they were being given a painkiller. And their startling conclusion was that if you tell someone you're not giving them a real drug - even when you do - the painkiller won't work.

How fascinating is that? And to make matters even more interesting, some of the volunteers were told they were being given a powerful painkiller. And in those cases, the effectiveness of the pills were doubled.

The volunteers were all given a powerful, fast-acting opiod painkiller called remifentanil, so it should have worked in all the volunteers. It was administered through a drip, so they couldn't tell whether or not they were getting any drugs.

The participants had to rate their pain levels after being given the drug - with those who had been told they were getting a dummy drug, or no drug at all, reporting little to no change. The scans also showed differences in brain activity in those who were told they were being given a painkiller and those who were told they were not.

The researchers claim this shows that if you have positive thoughts about painkillers - or, in theory, any type of medicine - it could work twice as well.

Do you think mind over matter is important where health is concerned?

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