Placebo is the effect of good news that in combination with treatment brings better results.Bernice Clark ▼ Wednesday January 21, 2009 6:56PM ET
Placebo effect - a hit or a myth?
Our mind absorbs information as a sponge and shapes our conscience from the moment we were born. Until the moment when we develop our competence of judgement, we are already full of ideas what we are allowed to do, what we are not allowed, what we can and what we cannot do. In another words, we are full of ideas that are not based on our experiences.
Placebo is nothing else than the effect of good news that in combination with treatment brings better results. It is of a biological nature, entirely real and measurable, but unfortunately, it is not in a domain of our will but of our faith.
Doctors prescribed sugar pills for centuries to patients to whom they were are unable to help. New science researches showed that placebo effect is not the myth.
Magnetic resonance imaging tests showed that placebo effect shows changes in the brain when we talk about pain, although that the effect is of psychologically nature. People who take "fake drug" without knowing, thinking that the drug will mitigate their pain, have decreased activities in the parts of the brain for which is known that they are responsible for feeling the pain.
The word "placebo" comes from the Latin word "placere" that means "I will please". Placebo effect does exactly that. If we have strong faith, it pleases us.
But, there's also a placebo contra effect, so called nocebo effect. It's placebo's effect reversed. Nocebo effect is discovered some 10 years ago when scientists discovered that women who believed that they will get sick of cardiac diseases had almost four times more chances of dieing of those diseases than less pessimistic women with a similar risk factors.
That turns us back to the beginning of the article and the story of collecting experiences. If a patient hear some bad news during the recovery, that can start nocebo effect. This is the reason why doctors must protect all patients from stress and negativities of all kinds as hard as possible.
The results of placebo effect on patients who are involved in clinical studies are known and each of them showed good results. But, does doctors use placebo in every day practice and if they do, what are the results?
Surprisingly, indeed, but doctors use "fake drugs" more than you think. Scientist from The Chicago University asked more than 400 doctors did they ever give placebo to their patients. Almost half of the examinees answered "yes" and stated a few reasons. Some doctors explained that they use placebo to please patient's request for the drug that is unnecessary.
Some doctors said that they give placebo to a patient after all other options are failed. Among the doctors who use placebo, every fifth doctor confesses that he lied to a patient that he uses medicine. More often doctors use imagination, saying to a patient that they will get him something that cannot hurt but it can help. Four percent of the doctors told to their patients exactly what they use.
26 percent of the doctors expressed their opinion that placebo can have a valuable effect. 12 percent of doctors consider that placebo must be forbidden in the traditional medicine care. Generally accepted ethical opinion is that patient has right to know and understand what treatment he gets.
American Medicine Association attitude is that doctor may use placebo only if he explains to the patient what it is exactly, and if the patient agrees to take it. Around 30 percent of patients feel already better when they took pill or after they get an injection. Although the result of that is only of psychologically nature, it is real and because of that worth to try. ■