The placebo effect: an enigma in potential treatment

A placebo is a medical treatment that does not contain any type of medication. In fact, it contains no active ingredients at all. But in many cases, placebos can have a therapeutic and sometimes dramatic effect.

Doctors were giving placebos to patients who had little to offer or seemed to have nothing wrong with them. They may give the patient a tincture of sugar water, or a pill filled with sugar, in the hope that the patient’s belief in the medication or trust in the doctor will help relieve symptoms.

Placebo is nothing new either. in message Thomas Jefferson wrote to Caspar Wistar, “One of the most successful physicians I have ever known, assured me that he used more bread pills, colored water drops, and nut ash powders than all other medicines combined.”

placebo in trials

When experts began to see medicine as a science rather than an art, they saw the true power of placebos – and they measured it. In 1955, Henry Knowles Beecher first identified the effect. Beecher was an anesthesiologist at Harvard Medical School and published a paper In the Journal of the American Medical Association. Although the experts A question Beecher’s evidence and conclusions, they did not question his evidence that placebos are necessary for drug trials.

To determine whether a new drug is more effective than no treatment at all, researchers must consider the placebo effect. Receiving the medicine is likely to affect some patients. Which suggests that when a drug is tested, the response does not necessarily mean that the drug is better than doing nothing.

This is why today’s “gold standard” for drug testing is the randomized, double-blind trial (RCT). In an RCT, some patients receive the actual medication; Others get a placebo. Neither the researchers nor the patients know who gets the drug and who gets the placebo, hence the “double blindness.” Experts will not approve a drug if it is no more effective than a placebo.

How it works is unknown

The placebo effect is not universal, although Beecher suggested that up to 35 percent of people may be susceptible to the effect. Researchers have note Placebos induce changes in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as relieve pain, depression, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome. Lollipop injections seem to work better than a dummy pill, large pills work better than small pills, and two pills are better than one. Studies have found that even the color Than the pill can make a difference.

A placebo is not limited to pills and tinctures. in one study, the surgeon performed a mock knee surgery, in which the surgeon made an incision, but did nothing to the knee before stitching it back together. Patients were as likely to find relief as those who underwent this procedure.

It remains a mystery how the placebo effect works. Some say it is a matter of expectations. Some think it classical conditioning at work. We feel better after taking the drug, so we feel better. The placebo effect on pain can lead to the activation of natural opioids in the brain as a response to the doctor-patient relationship.

No need to cheat

But there is one thing that is not a mystery. Despite all the benefits a placebo can provide, lying to patients is unethical. In clinical trials, participants know they may be in the group getting a placebo. Jefferson called the disbursement of bread grains and bona fide colored water a “pious fraud.”

However, experts can take advantage of the placebo effect without fraud – pious or otherwise. One of the most interesting things about placebos is that they can work even in patients I know They get a placebo.

Although placebos have been used for centuries and have been a necessary part of clinical trials for decades, their reputation has waned and waned, ranging from “nice” to “dishonest, unethical, and dangerous.” However, in the past few decades, researchers have begun Take a closer look In Beyond Effect and how they can use it to directly benefit patients, not just test drugs. One day you can choose a pill, knowing full well what it does not contain.