Judy Foreman, author of A Nation in Pain: Healing our Biggest Health Problem, looks at the prevalence of chronic pain and how we treat it differently in men and women. (via oupacademic)
I’m horrified but not astonished.
Yeah if the researchers were astonished, that… says a lot about them.
From a medical science perspective: the first question that comes to mind is ‘what sedatives were they given?’
Because while it actually wouldn’t surprise me at all if women are getting maltreated medically - systemic discrimination is a thing! - there are also real differences in response to analgesics based on what hormones your system is running on.
Check out this 2008 article, of which I shall quote the first sentence of the abstract: “Opioid-based narcotics are the most widely prescribed therapeutic agent for the alleviation of persistent pain; however, it is becoming increasingly clear that morphine is significantly less potent in women compared to men.” … Turns out that different hormone levels significantly impact opioid receptor function.
There are also drugs more effective in women than men. The piece I just linked there talks about drugs that act on kappa-opioid receptors (the odd ducks of the opioid receptor family) but also look up ‘adjuvant analgesics’ - I believe I remember something about GABA-ergic drugs being more effective on pain in women, though I can’t locate it right now and I suspect it might have been women with a particular condition, maybe fibromyalgia? And GABA-ergic drugs are also generally… sedatives. Yeah, it’s complicated. (I ran into this particular area of pharmacology when discovering that cyclobenzaprine didn’t do what it was supposed to do - relax my muscles so I wouldn’t get migraines in the morning due to my hypermobility disorder - but clonazepam does for me what cyclobenzaprine is supposed to.)
I guess this is all just to amount to a cautionary note in favor of reading a study before drawing conclusions from a headline about a study. There are a lot of things in medicine that desperately need to be criticized, a lot of routines that desperately need to be rewritten, and if we are to make these changes, our opprobrium must find its targets accurately.