Positive Health Benefits From The Placebo Effect

2011-06-09 |
Health Benefits From Placebo Effect

In the efforts to treat the many diseases and illnesses that afflict humanity, medical researchers are constantly seeking more effective techniques and medications. To determine whether a newly developed treatment is more effective than existing treatments, researchers must perform testing. Such tests involve comparing whether use of the treatment benefits patients more than giving a fake treatment. The fake treatment provided is called a placebo.

While we would logically think that patients receiving a fake treatment would obtain no benefit, many decades of research have found that this is not the case. The term “placebo effect” exists because, in many situations, patients receive measurable health benefits during the course of fake treatment. Though medical research has long viewed the existence of the “placebo effect” as an undesirable consequence of measuring treatment effectiveness, research in the past decade has begun to recognize the “placebo effect” itself as a valuable treatment.

The Use of Placebos

The use of placebos in treatment is by no means new. In a 2008 study from the University of Chicago, researchers surveying doctors found that 45% of these physicians had administered a placebo. While this immediately raises ethical concerns about doctors not keeping their patients informed or outright lying to their patients, it also supports the science that suggests placebos provide health benefits.

What Makes A Placebo Work Well?

A major factor that affects the health benefits of placebos is our belief in their effectiveness. This means that the level of health benefit provided depends on the beliefs of a particular patient.

In trying to understand when placebos work best, researchers from the University of Bombay looked at a very simple feature of medications, their color. What they found was that patients liked pills more or less depending on the color of the pill. Patients also associated the taste of the pill to its color. This occurred even in pills that had no taste at all. Patients who thought their pill tasted bitter or sour or simply did not like the color of the pill reported less benefits from the pill. They were also less likely to take the pills as recommended by their doctor.

Another study that demonstrates the relationship between belief and medicinal effectiveness was performed by researchers at Duke University. The researchers tested whether the price of a drug affected its perceived effectiveness. Of the patients who received a placebo painkiller with a high price per pill, 85% described a reduction in pain when taking the pill. Amongst the patients who received a placebo painkiller with a low price per pill, only 61% described a reduction in the pain that they experienced.

What these studies show is that for a placebo to be effective, the patient must believe that it provides some benefit.

However, this does not mean that the effectiveness of the treatments is all in the patient’s mind. Research from Ludwig-Maximilians-University has observed effects on digestive, cardiovascular and respiratory systems as a direct result of placebo use. Verbal suggestions by a doctor were enough to affect blood pressure, constriction of the airways and movements within the intestines. This suggests that placebos involve a direct linkage between the mind and body.

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Category: General Health, Medical Research

Comments (1)

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  1. Judith Delgado says:

    Thus it is very important to tell your physician about your previous problems and also about your present conditions. When your doctor gives you the list of medications the job is on you to procure the medicines.

    Judith Delgado
    FindRxOnline blog