What is the Placebo Effect?

The other night I was extremely tired, but couldn’t fall asleep. I had an exam the next morning and knew I had to get some rest or else I might not be able to function come morning time. As a last resort, I decided to take Benadryl to help me fall asleep. I knew that this would help me pass out, and it did. I fell asleep about twenty minutes after taking it. The next morning I told my friend what I had done and he mentioned something called the placebo effect. He told me that because I was convinced that the Benadryl would put me to sleep, it did, but didn’t necessarily put me to sleep because the pill itself worked. It might have just been me believing it would work.

I decided to do some research on whether or not the placebo effect was actually effective, and what studies have been done to prove or disprove it. This link here states that placebos have been show to work in about 30 percent of patients. Some researchers believe that patients reacting positively to placebos are just responding psychologically. Recent research, however, indicates that placebos might actually bring out a physical response. The video on the article already cited talks about a double blind study that was done. The study gave one group of sick people an actual drug and gave the other group of sick people a placebo drug. Here, the null hypothesis is that there is no difference between the placebo and the actual drug. The alternate hypothesis would be the fact that there is a difference between the placebo and the real drug. After the study was done, researchers found that numerous people who took the placebo pill claimed to be better, even though their pill was not actually meant for improving health. After this study was done, further studies were launched to figure out just what was going on. The video mentions a study done in 2004. The study put painful, harmless injections into people’s jaws. After the painful injection was inserted, the people were told that they were receiving a saline painkiller injection. The painkiller injection, however, was not actually a painkiller. Many people, however, claimed to feel better after the second injection. Afterwards, the researchers viewed people’s brain through pet scans and found that the people’s brains were actually releasing the body’s natural painkiller, called an endorphin. This showed that patients actually experienced relief of pain that was not just in their head.

This website here states that the placebo effect may involve changes in brain chemistry, and may actually be used to heal people. There were studies done for people with Parkinson’s disease using placebos. Parkinson’s disease is associated with a shortage of a brain chemical called a dopamine, and in the studies performed; placebos actually increased the production of dopamines in the patients. Although researchers are still trying to fully understand the placebo effect, research has clearly shown that in most cases, the placebo effect works. So now every time you take something to fall asleep or a doctor gives you something to make you feel better, ask yourself whether or not it is the pill actually working or you believing it is.


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Picture Link: https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/placebo-effect-one-a-day.jpg

4 thoughts on “What is the Placebo Effect?

  1. John Rutledge

    The Placebo effect I have always found very interesting. My view on it was that if it makes someone feel better or get better, then why not. I think that even if you are tricking the brain it is still okay because I makes the individual feel better.

  2. Jen Malespina

    I find the Placebo Effect so interesting. It is crazy to think that we can essentially convince ourselves of not having pain or feeling a certain way. Mentally we believe that it is working even if it may not actually be. Similar to your experience, whenever I take any kind of medicine before bed I convince myself that I am tired from it and it always works! Reading this blog, it is so eye-opening to see how this can work on more serious serious situation such as oral painkillers. I was inspired to look even more into the Placebo Effect and found this article, you should check it out! http://listverse.com/2013/02/16/10-crazy-facts-about-the-placebo-effect/

  3. Alexander Mark Schaefer

    I find your post to be very helpful. I wrote a post previously on whether or not pre workout is a placebo or not. I believe it is, but I also believe the placebo affect takes place in most people. However, I wonder what causes the placebo affect. You say it only occurred in 30% of patients. Is this because our body is convinced it feels better but actually isn’t?

  4. Ryan Gregory Blank

    This is very interesting topic especially when things that aren’t controlled by the brain are effected because of the placebo. In another blog I read a couple days ago, there was a study that showed that cancer patients were given a placebo pill. When they collected the data, they found that the group of patients that had been given the placebo pill’s cancer seized spreading 0-3 months while the group of patients who were given the actual medicine had their cancer seize from spreading for 4-5 months. I don’t understand how this is possible because the cancer doesn’t know you took the pill. How can the cancer be tricked in this sort of manner. Wouldn’t you have to assume that the data is because of chance? When it comes to things that are controlled by the brain, however, I can fathom how the changes may actually be possible.

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