All posts by Michael Doneman

More on placebos and depression

depression

From Mary Nichols, Design & Trend

Sugar pills can lower depression in people, writes Nature World News.

A new study suggests that people who believe that medication will help them to fight depression are those more likely to respond to placebo or fake treatments – compared with those who are skeptical about pharmaceutical interventions.

The study, by researchers at the University of California, found that the ‘power of pill’ is real for some depression patients.

‘In short, if you think a pill is going to work, it probably will,’ Andrew Leuchter, the study’s first author and a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, said in a statement.

The study included 88 people, who were aged between 18 and 65 years.

All participants had been diagnosed with depression and were given eight weeks of treatment.

Of the 88 patients, 29 received placebo treatment as well as supportive care, 20 were given supportive care alone and 39 were given genuine medication and supportive care.

The study is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Harvard’s Kaptchuk at TEDMED 2014

kaptchuk

From Stephanie Buam, at Medcity News:

“It would be oversimplified to call it the power of positive thinking, but Harvard Medical School Professor Ted Kaptchuk‘s talk at TEDMED 2014 in Washington D.C., highlighted compelling research surrounding the placebo effect. Kaptchuk focused on applications of the placebo effect for conditions as diverse as migraine headaches to Parkinson’s disease. It demonstrates that some of the power of a drug comes from a patient thinking that it will work.”

Measuring the Placebo Effect

parkinsons

It seems that as medicine finds it necessary to not only describe but measure the placebo effect,  research projects like this one (into the activation of the placebo effect in Parkinson’s patients) are emerging. In this study, researchers “used their network mapping technique to identify specific brain circuits underlying the response to sham surgery in Parkinson’s disease patients participating in a gene therapy trial.”

Prescribing Placebos: What Patients Think

prescription

Some fascinating recent research into the use (as in prescription) of placebos by doctors, or rather, patients’ views on this.

The research showed:

  • People “were unwilling to accept at face value” that placebos can benefit patients. Instead, they discussed “in some detail” whether placebos actually have an effect or not. (Hint: They do.)
  • People were pretty judgmental about those who experience placebo effects, saying things like, “I don’t think he is very bright.” In an email, Bishop says, “I think this comes from the idea that placebo effects are somehow ‘fake’ or illusory, and so someone who experiences a placebo effect has been tricked and is therefore gullible.”
  • Almost all the participants believed placebos are only effective if there is deception involved. While that’s not true, most participants agreed that deceptive placebo-prescribing by doctors was unethical in most scenarios.
  • One situation where people were comfortable with deceptive prescribing was when the patient is a child; the “magic kiss” was one example of giving placebos to children.

You can read more here.

Deepak Chopra’s Take on the Placebo Effect

chopra

Lifestyle guru Deepak Chopra says: “The first step toward an alternative is to view pain as a mind-body experience that is highly subjective. As such it can often be approached through a phenomenon called “self-efficacy.” The brain contains many pain-relieving chemicals, and these can be triggered mentally, which is why taking a placebo leads to pain relief in a significant proportion of people. (The reverse is also true through the nocebo effect, where a harmless substance induces pain or fails to relieve it when the subject is told that this is the expected outcome.)” 

His take on ‘America’s Pain-Pill Epidemic’ can be seen in full here.

Placebo Effect is Great if You are ‘Nice’

one night only

From Herald Tribune Health

‘The effectiveness of placebos now makes it clear that our bodies do not distinguish between a chemical process and the thought of a chemical process.

Also surprising: As many as 80 percent of all doctors say they have prescribed placebos — which include saline (salt water) injections along with familiar “impure” placebos, such as prescribing an antibiotic for a viral illness.

Nicer patients respond best to placebos. In a multi-university study, people with traits like resiliency, straightforwardness and altruism experienced a greater reduction in pain after taking a placebo than did those with an “angry hostility personality trait.”’