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Scand J Psychol. 2009 Dec;50(6):652-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.2009.00776.x.

Drug effects: agonistic and antagonistic processes.

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Department of Psychology, University of Tromsø, Norway.


The research presented here has shown that tolerance to drugs can be accelerated by conditioning processes. Placebo effects may be considered the opposite of tolerance, and we have shown that placebo effects may be objectively recorded by physiological measures (electromyography, skin conductance responses, and event-related potentials), as well as by behavioral and subjective methods. The placebo response, or more precisely, the expectation of drug effects, can add to the effect of the drug. Drug antagonistic expectations can also reverse the effect of the drug. There is some evidence that placebo effects are strongest when expectations are reinforced by administration of an active drug. Expectations have graded effects and may affect symptoms to a smaller or larger degree. Although drug effects can be considered stimuli, the investigation of the role of classical conditioning in drug use and drug effects involves special issues that must be carefully considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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