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Listening to music makes medication more effective

Listening to music can boost the effectiveness of medication, according to a new study led by Michigan State University. The research was focused on the potential for music to help alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea (CIN).

According to the experts, the results of the study highlight the need to consider nonpharmacologic treatments as adjunct interventions. 

“This pilot study investigated the feasibility and overall effects of a 30-minute adjunct music listening intervention in 12 patients experiencing chemotherapy-induced nausea,” wrote the study authors. “Music listening was started at the time participants took their as-needed antiemetic medication, and it was repeated as needed.”

Professor Jason Kiernan said that music-listening interventions are like over-the-counter medications. “You don’t need a doctor to prescribe them.” 

“Pain and anxiety are both neurological phenomena and are interpreted in the brain as a state. Chemotherapy-induced nausea is not a stomach condition; it is a neurological one.” 

For the investigation, a dozen chemotherapy patients were asked to listen to their favorite music for 30 minutes each time they needed to take anti-nausea medication. They repeated the music anytime nausea occurred during the five days after chemotherapy treatment. 

Professor Kiernan said that while there was a reduction in the ratings of patients’ nausea severity and distress, it is difficult to isolate whether it was the gradual release of the medication doing its job or the increased benefit of the music. 

In a previous study, researchers measured the amount of serotonin that was released into the blood after listening to pleasant or unpleasant music. 

“Serotonin is the major neurotransmitter that causes chemotherapy-induced nausea,” said Professor Kiernan. “Cancer patients take medications to block serotonin’s effects.” 

The research showed that after listening to unpleasant music, patients experienced greater stress and increased levels of serotonin release.

“This was intriguing because it provides a neurochemical explanation and a possible way to measure serotonin and the blood platelet release of serotonin in my study,” said Professor Kiernan. “In 10 to 20 years, wouldn’t it be neat if you could use a nonpharmacological intervention like listening to 10 minutes of your favorite music to complement a medicine?” 

The research is published in the journal Clinical Nursing Research.

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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