Placebo Effect

A placebo is a fake drug that has no active ingredient.  The placebo effect is when someone who thinks they are receiving treatment gets better even though what they are getting has no medical benefit.  A placebo is often used when testing to see if a drug has a real medical benefit.  How it works is there are usually two groups one that gets the real drug and one that gets the placebo.  Often times neither the doctors nor the patients know which they are receiving.  The theory is that people can get better just by thinking that they are receiving treatment.  If the testing group gets substantially better than it can be concluded that the drug works.  What I wanted to research is if the human mind is powerful enough that someone can get better just by thinking they are receiving treatment.  The hypothesis I plan to test is that placebos can make someone better.

Ted Kaptchuk a professor at Harvard medical school conducted an experiment to test the placebo effect.  His test included 270 people split into two group one group would receive a pill for arm pain and the other group would receive acupuncture.  Out of the 270 people almost 90 people complain to be experiencing side effects.  The people were reporting the exact side effects that they were warned about.  This was astonishing because the people had not actually received any treatment the pills were starch pills and the acupuncture never pieced their skin.  People’s minds were tricking them to experience symptoms that they were told they could experience.  This is amazing to me the fact that these people were devolving rashes and arms begun swelling from just the thought that it could happen (Harvard Magazine).

Ted Kaptchuk conducted another experiment where he split up people into three different groups: One received no care, (according to the study they were told they were on the waiting list), one received fake acupuncture, and finally a group that received fake acupuncture but with a lot of care from the doctors.  The third group spent the most time with the doctors per visit and the doctors made an effort to make them feel like they were receiving the best treatment possible.  The group that showed the best results was the third group.  Ted Kaptchuk was trying to show through these experiments the power of the placebo effect and if doctors today didn’t rush through visits we could be getting better results (Harvard Magazineplacebo-effects

There was another study done by Dr. Jon-Kar Zubieta that compared two placebo.  This experiment treated people with depression that had received no prior medication. What was different about this study is that the groups were told if they were getting the active medicine (which was a placebo) or the inactive medicine (this was also a placebo).  In this experiment both groups received the same placebo but where told if they were in the “medicine” group or the placebo group.  After a week, the groups switched medication.  The group that was taking the inactive medicine said they felt less depressed after taking the “active medicine”.  The pills were the same thing neither of the pills did anything but they still said they saw results after switching (Placebo effect)

It has always been known that placebos do have some effect on people that is why to prove medicine works it must have sustainable different results.  Through these experiments, it shows that people can not only get better by the amount of interest shown in the doctor but they can also experience side effects just because they were stated.  The human brain is more powerful than we think.

2 thoughts on “Placebo Effect

  1. Gulianna E Garry

    This post brought me back to my psychology days! That is when I first heard about the placebo effect and thought that it was a really interesting idea that definitely works. I think psychology is definitely an interesting course about how our brain works and why it works that way. I would definitely recommend the course if you find the placebo effect interesting. Here is a little bit about psychology incase you are interested about it.

  2. Nicholas E Schneider

    I found your blog very insightful and was glad that you concluded your post by recognizing that the human brain is much more powerful than people realize, as this idea often gets overlooked. It’s amazing to me that when a person is told something could potentially occur as a result of their actions (whether it be developing side effects after taking medication or getting sick after being around a sick individual), these people unknowingly trick themselves into believing that the feel how they were told they might. An internet video I saw recently exemplifies this idea perfectly. In the clip, a student is blindfolded and told to reach his hand into a box which could contain an animal. Upon reaching into the box, the student feels the animal moving around and touching his hand and absolutely freaks out. Moments later the student removes his blindfold to see the box filled with a harmless stuffed animal. Because the student couldn’t see and was told there’d potentially be something in the box, his mind automatically prompted him to think what he was told was reality, rather than make him take a step back and analyze the situation. Overall, I feel that the placebo effect is a very real and powerful thing and that placebos are so deceiving because of humans’ natural inclination to assume the worst and believe what they are told to be true.

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