Jan 31, 2012

Do Placebos Really Work?

It seems that sometimes they do

You may not have a positive view of the term ‘placebo’. You may envision sugar pills, medical tricks, or even snake-oil. But placebos are commonly used in medical research. Don’t be too quick to condemn the placebo.

In medical research (clinical trials) a placebo is a neutral substance used as a control in an experiment to determine the effectiveness of an experimental drug or treatment. A related phenomenon known as the ‘placebo effect’ adds new and sometimes surprising information to the mix. Placebo effect usually refers to the beneficial effects of a placebo in relieving symptoms. This occurs about one-third of the time when placebos are used.

The placebo effect works when the patients do not know they are receiving a placebo and believe they are or may be receiving a beneficial treatment. It also seems to work when the patient does know the treatment is a placebo.

Although nobody knows for sure why and how placebos work, researchers have provided numerous studies demonstrating the beneficial effects of placebos. Some researchers believe that placebos help the mind trigger healing or other changes in the body.

Examples of the power of placebos:

·       Researchers told a group of hotel attendants that they were getting a good exercise workout by just doing their job. Another group doing exactly the same work was not told about the ‘exercise’ benefit of their work. After four weeks those workers told about the exercise value of their job showed a significant decrease in weight and blood pressure. The control group showed no change. In this case the placebo was verbal—telling one group of participants something that they did not tell the control group.

·       In other studies, 3 percent to 45 percent of patients diagnosed with depression and treated with placebos reported significant improvement. Numerous studies have shown similar results.

·       When told a milkshake they consumed had 620 calories, participants reported feeling satisfied (full) more quickly than those participants who were told the same milkshake had only 120 calories.

The mind may be a valuable tool in the health and healing processes. Researchers are finding new hints as to why and how this seems to work. There are still skeptics, research is ongoing, and the jury is still out.

No comments:

Post a Comment