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The Magic of the Placebo Effect

Some people are afraid of going to the hospital and ask for a professional help because of various reasons. There are other people who are also reluctant in taking medicines for their ailments because of their superstitious beliefs which could affect their health in a bad way. The mind can have a powerful influence on the body, and in some cases, it can even help the body heal without the help of prescribed medicines and treatments and because it is very powerful, it could trick the body into believing that a fake treatment has real therapeutic results. This phenomenon is called the placebo effect.

Science Daily defined the placebo effect as a phenomenon where the patient’s condition could be tricked into healing through the use of an ineffective treatment that replaces the expected treatment because it is more effective. Other people believe that the placebo effect is very useful in some cases which is why they consider it as one of the most remarkable features of the human mind. In some cases, these placebos can exert an influence powerful enough to mimic the effects of real medical treatments. Despite the criticisms that the placebo effect is just the mind’s way of positive thinking. When this response to a fake treatment occurs, many patients have no idea that they are responding to what is essentially a “sugar pill.”

The placebo effect is not a deception, experimenter bias, or statistical anomaly, but psychology experts claim that it is a product of expectation. The human brain anticipates outcomes, and anticipation produces those outcomes. The placebo effect is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it follows the patterns the person predict if the brain were producing its own desired outcomes. Numerous studies have supported the conclusion that endorphins in the brain produce the placebo effect. In patients with chronic pain, placebo responders were found to have higher concentrations of endorphins in their spinal fluid than placebo nonresponders.

Placebos are often used in different medical research in order to help doctors and scientists to discover and have a better insight into the physiological and psychological effects of new medications. In order to understand why the placebo effect is important, it is essential that more people have a better understanding of how and why it works within the body.

 

Placebos: Mind over Matter

The placebo effect is defined as a phenomenon in which some people experience a benefit after the administration of an inactive substance or sham treatment. A placebo is considered as a substance with no known medical effects, such as sterile water, saline solution, or a sugar pill. The expectation of the patient plays a significant role in the placebo effect and the more a person expects the treatment to work, the more likely they are to exhibit a placebo response. Furthermore, according to a web post by Mental Floss, deputy director of the program in Placebo studies (PiPS) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, John Kelley stated that the patient’s expectation on the outcome of the medicine is very important in the effectivity of the placebo. He explained that the size of the pill given to the patient also plays a role in the effect of the medicines.

In most cases, the person who does not know that the treatment they are receiving is actually a placebo. Instead, they believe that they are the recipient of the real treatment. The placebo is designed to seem exactly like the real treatment, whether it is a pill, injection, or consumable liquid, yet the substance has no actual effect on the illness or condition it tries to treat.

In medical research, some patients in a study may be administered a placebo while other participants receive the actual treatment. The purpose of doing this is to determine whether or not the treatment has a real effect. A placebo may be given to a person in a clinical context in order to deceive the recipient into thinking that it is an active treatment. The use of placebos as a treatment in clinical medicine is ethically problematic as it introduces deception and dishonesty into the doctor-patient relationship.

Placebos used in clinical trials have sometimes had unintended consequences. A report in the Annals of Internal Medicine that look at details from 150 clinical trials found that certain placebos used in the trials affected the results. Another example researchers reported in the study was a clinical trial of a new therapy for cancer patients suffering from anorexia.

The placebo effect is directly related to a person’s expectations. The more strongly a person believes in a medication’s efficacy, the more significant the effect of the medication is likely to be. Brain imaging tests indicate that the use of a placebo may activate portions of the brain related to information processing. Thus, people who take placebos may view their symptoms differently or may become more motivated to feel better.

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