The Placebo Effect

Background (Via Skeptic)

Jane D. was a regular visitor to our ER, usually showing up late at night demanding an injection of the narcotic Demerol, the only thing that worked for her severe headaches. One night the staff psychiatrist had the nurse give her an injection of saline instead. It worked! He told Jane she had responded to a placebo, discussed the implications, and thought he’d helped her understand that her problem was psychological. But as he was leaving the room, Jane asked, “Can I get that new medicine again next time instead of the Demerol? It really worked great!”

Introduction (Via Skeptic)

The term “placebo effect” is unfortunate; it leads to misunderstandings. Placebos themselves don’t have any effect. They are inert: that’s what placebo means. The word placebo comes from the Latin for “I please.” You can think of it as the opposite of “I benefit.” What we really mean by “the placebo effect” is not some mysterious effect from giving an inert treatment, but the complex web of psychosocial effects surrounding medical treatment. Those effects occur with effective treatments too, not just with inert treatments.

Excerpts (Via Skeptic)

We not only know placebos “work,” we know there is a hierarchy of effectiveness:

Placebo surgery works better than placebo injections
Placebo injections work better than placebo pills
Sham acupuncture treatment works better than a placebo pill
Capsules work better than tablets
Big pills work better than small
The more doses a day, the better
The more expensive, the better
The color of the pill makes a difference
Telling the patient, “This will relieve your pain” works better than saying “This might help.”

Along with placebo effects, there are nocebo (“I harm”) effects. People getting inert treatments often report new symptoms. A friend of mine stopped taking her homeopathic sleep remedy because she thought it was causing side effects.

Click Here To Read About The Place Book Effect

About Miguel Barbosa

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26. June 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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