Pain infirmity and psychotropic drugs in oncology

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Abstract

The treatment of cancer pain by psychotropic drugs is a method which has been employed for a long time [8] and in which the results obtained have appeared very interesting from the beginning: there is a high percentage of success, rapid action, absence of addiction, and although there are sometimes unpleasant side-effects, they are reversible when the treatment is stopped. Even after several years of application, this therapy still sets some unsolved problems. Some consider that psychotropics are not real analgesics, but that they work on the emotional reaction rather than on the pain itself [3]. Still others consider that the results are obtained only at the price of a state of prostration of the patient similar to that obtained after lobectomy. Finally, this procedure is reproached as having unpredictable results and indications difficult to define.

We think that what has, up to now, prevented these types of problems from being solved has been the absence of a really objective evaluation of the pain in the patients observed. We have wrestled with this problem for several years [1,2], and offer the following hypothesis: what is important in considering chronic pain is, above all, the infirmity conferred upon the patient. If “pain” in the broad sense of the term lends itself to objective evaluation with difficulty, it is not the same with respect to infirmity.

a method of evaluation of the physical disability intended for routine practice in a cancer center has been used on a series of 100 patients. The results obtained in this series have been analyzed and give the answer to questions such as mechanism of action, indications of psychotropic drugs and prognosis of cancer pain.

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