In the area of understanding the mind, one of the most important areas to explore is what happens when a patient is put into a state of mental pain or discomforts. Pain is one of the most serious illnesses that people can suffer from. It can be quite debilitating and very difficult to treat. Studies have shown that people suffering from pain show no differences in their pain threshold and do not respond differently to treatments than those who do not suffer from pain. This has led to a search for an explanation as to why this occurs. Although scientists cannot explain how it occurs, they believe that it does, and they have come up with a theory as to why placebo effects happen.
The brain reacts to what is perceived to be a pain in a different way. For example, if you have someone pinch your finger, your body will interpret that as a sign that there is pain in that area, and that it needs to be treated. If you were given a painkiller, and were told beforehand that it would give you pain relief, your brain would perceive this in the same way as when you are actually experiencing pain. However, if you were told beforehand that the pain would be eliminated, your brain chemistry would have been altered, and you would not feel any pain at all.
Studies have shown that in a number of cases, those who have undergone pain relief from a placebo, show no changes in their brain chemistry. However, there are also a number of people who say that this has happened to them, but they can’t remember it. There are two ways that placebo effects can occur: directly through the placebo itself, or indirectly through something that the patient has taken before receiving the pain reliever.
Direct Effect Of Placebos
Those who believe in the direct effect of placebos, usually argue that a patient’s pain threshold can affect how they perceive the pain. If the patient is more sensitive to pain, then they might not need pain relief as much as someone else who has a lower pain threshold. For example, someone who suffers from fibromyalgia, might require less pain relief than someone with a different disease. The patient’s state of mind can be affected by the drugs they take before receiving their pain relief. In other words, these people think they need to take the drug just to be safe; they don’t know whether the drugs themselves are causing the serotonin levels to drop or not.
Studies have demonstrated that this is indeed the case. Patients taking placebos have stronger feelings of pain immediately after the first few doses, which has led some researchers to conclude that the level of pain relief is caused by placebo effects. However, those who disagree with this claim to argue that it is too strong a conclusion to make. They argue that a patient might not suffer any decrease in pain until his state of mind changes after the initial dose has worn off.
To prove the effectiveness of placebo, patients undergoing clinical trials are required to take placebos under double-blind conditions. The patients may either receive or do not receive a placebo. If the placebo is non-effective, the trial is ended immediately. However, if it works, the physician may keep it going until the next study. It is also important to note that the physicians must be absolutely sure that the placebo is indeed effective.
Why does this matter? Because it shows how powerful a role the mind has in affecting physical functions, and thus how powerful factor pharmaceuticals have in their effectiveness. Psychologically-induced analgesia, or the placebo effect, is not a phenomenon that occurs by chance. It is the product of a mind working with a body. Pharmaceuticals cannot control or predict whether or not a patient will experience a placebo effect; but the mind can.
For doctors, it is important to know these effects so they can treat their patients more effectively. They can learn how to recognize when patients are truly experiencing pain and can devise treatment plans that will actually lead to pain relief.
Without learning this, there is no way to assure patients that they are truly experiencing pain and suffering. This helps them to provide more efficient care, as well. Finally, knowing the why of the placebo effect allows those studying its effects to apply it to other areas of medicine. Thus, why placebo effects are important extends beyond the practice of medicine.