Showing posts with label Placebo Effect. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Placebo Effect. Show all posts

Placebo Effect

  • Science has come a long way when it comes to the development of medicines that address different kinds of ailments and yet, when it comes to ascertaining the effects of a certain kind of drug, researchers still rely on the simple sugar pill. These pills are frequently used in double-blind studies to determine the effectiveness of tested treatments.

What is a Placebo?

  • A placebo is a substance or a procedure that has no pharmacological effect but somehow elicits a positive result. It has no component that can either create a positive effect (placebo effect) or a negative (nocebo effect) one. Hence, it is an effective counterpoint against a particular drug for testing. It may take the form of a sugar pill or tablet or, in other cases, a saline solution.

Example of How Placebos Can be Used

  • Let's say a newly developed drug, Drug Y, claims it can stop your urge to smoke cigarettes. To verify its efficacy, a clinical trial will be held involving a group of people who have been informed of the drug and its supposed benefits. It will also be explained that a number of participants in the group will be given placebos as part of the study's control. The participants will obviously not know which they will be receiving, as this will affect the results. A careful evaluation will be conducted to determine whether or not the drug's claims are indeed true. For example, the group that received the placebo is not expected to experience a cessation in their urge to smoke while the group that received Drug Y should lessen, if not totally stop, their smoking habit. However, what happens when the participants who received the placebo express the same effect as those who received the drug? This is called the placebo effect.


  • Sometimes, when doctors have exhausted all means to cure a person from a certain disease or ailment, they may turn to prescribing a placebo to see if it has any effect. Surprisingly, there are a number of instances where a patient claims to start feeling better due to the "new drug," thus leaving the physician in a dilemma as to whether to continue the placebo. Should the doctor uphold the Hippocratic Oath and heal by all means necessary or should he honor the patient-doctor honesty code and inform the patient that what she has been taking is a dummy medication? This is an important question physicians must face.

Miracle Cure?

  • Although there is no pharmacological component in a placebo, it has proven to have helped in illnesses with psychological components, such as pain management, depression and anxiety. It has also brought comfort to those suffering from Parkinson's disease, inflammatory disorders and even cancer.

    Power of Suggestion

    • Some people credit the healing properties of the placebo to the perceptions and expectations of the patient. For example, if you believe that you will feel better after taking a certain drug, then that is likely what you will end up feeling. If, for any reason, you are uncertain about the medicine or have doubts about a certain procedure, then it is likely that you will not get the desired results.

                                             The Placebo Effect

    • The "placebo effect" occurs when administering a fake treatment produces an improvement in the patient's condition. This is largely due to the patient's belief in its effectiveness and that it will help her get better. Sugar pills, creams, nasal sprays, saline injections, therapy interventions, acupuncture and even the physician's endorsement of a particular treatment all have been used to elicit positive outcomes, even though there is no active ingredient in the drug or intervention to account for the improvement.

    Placebos in Experimentation

    • Because expectations can influence whether a patient improves or gets worse, placebos are often used to compensate for this effect when experiments are conducted. The control group receives the placebo or fake treatment, and the experimental group receives the actual drug being studied. Neither knows which they have received, eliminating the impact of belief on the results. This technique can also prevent experimenters' attitudes from influencing outcomes, when they are unaware of which treatment is being received by each group until the study is complete.

    Treating With Placebos

    • Although placebos in and of themselves produce no physiological effects, physicians do report prescribing them to keep patients calm and as an adjunct treatment. In the Oct. 23, 2008 online issue of the British Medical Journal, Dr. Jon C. Tilburt and his colleagues state that about half of the U.S. internists and rheumatologists they surveyed prescribe placebos for their patients on a regular basis, primarily to promote the expectation of getting better. Where placebos are better than no treatment at all, physicians may encourage their use to reduce pain and swelling, hypertension and asthma.

    The Dark Side of Placebos

    • When presented as something that could possibly help the person, stimulating the power of the mind to influence the body, placebos have a real and positive impact. However, this power may produce some unsavory or potentially dangerous effects, such as placebo-induced side effects or withdrawal symptoms. This is called the nocebo effect---producing negative results by administering a fake substance or treatment.

    Ethical Implications

Although there are benefits associated with placebos, there are real concerns that this constitutes lying to patients, violating patient rights and breaking trust in the doctor-patient relationship. Of particular concern are instances in which patients are given sham treatments to quiet them, leaving a serious medical condition untreated. When the experimental treatment for a medical condition appears to be effective during a clinical trial, continuing to use placebos to preserve the study's scientific integrity may also be considered unethical. The danger of deceptive practices such as administering placebos, when weighed against the potential benefits, leaves the debate open and active for current health care practitioners and their patients.

               Here are some other cool facts about the placebo effect:

  • Orange, Red and other hot colored tablets work better as stimulants.
  • Cool colored ones (blue, green, purple) work better as depressants.
  • Big pills generally work better than small pills! 
  • Higher priced pills work better than lower priced pills. 
  • Injections work better than tablets And "branded" tablets work better than unbranded tablets!
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