Is it a good idea to read about all the possible side effects of medications you're taking?
Not if you have difficulty concentrating, headaches, fatigue, dry skin, irritability, a big project due, or an active imagination.
Research has shown that expecting to feel ill can bring illness on in some instances, particularly when stress is involved. The technical term is the "nocebo effect," and it's placebo's evil twin. "It's not a psychiatric disorder -- it's the way the mind works," says Arthur Barsky, director of Psychiatric Research at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Nocebos can even be fatal. In one classic example, women in the multi-decade Framingham Heart study who thought they were at risk for heart attacks were 3.7 times as likely to die of coronary conditions as women who didn't have such fears -- regardless of whether they smoked or had other risk factors.
Research deliberately causing nocebos has been limited (after all, it's kind of cruel). But in one 1960s test, when hospital patients were given sugar water and told it would make them vomit, 80% of them did.
Studies have also shown that patients forewarned about possible side effects are more likely to encounter them. In a study last year at the University of Turin, Italy, men taking finesteride for enlarged prostates who were informed that it could cause erectile dysfunction and decreased libido were three times as likely to experience such side effects as men who weren't told.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
reading about side effects makes you sick
From the Wall Street Journal: