Well, somebody bit the bullet and came clean with their claims for a non-alcoholic beer: it’s a placebo! Yes, Placebo Beer is now on tap in Houston, Texas.
“Angela, one of our brewers here at Urban South, is the mastermind behind this new series,” said Dave Ohemer, General Manager of Urban South – HTX. “We noticed an increasing number of our guests were non-alcohol drinkers who still wanted to visit the brewery with friends and family for the atmosphere or to enjoy some of our local food options. Our brewing team is excited for the opportunity to experiment with some of the ingredients we use in our fruited sours and create an option for this growing audience. We’ve received great feedback so far and look forward to continuing to develop the Placebo Effect series.”
Micro-dosing psychedelics as a therapy and productivity booster is all the rage in some quarters (like Silicon Valley). But is that a placebo effect?
People may not have to microdose psychedelics to feel their wellbeing benefits, according to a new study – they just have to believe (our italics) they’ve microdosed them.
Published in eLife, the new study found that participants who took placebos often reported the same beneficial effects as those that actually microdosed psychedelic substances. Likewise, those who believed they had taken a placebo, even when they had actually taken a psychedelic drug, experienced fewer improvements to their wellbeing.
Given these findings, the researchers suggest that the anecdotal benefits of microdosing can be explained by the placebo effect.
Finland’s Arctic circle might not seem like a great place to run a marathon barefoot and in shorts—unless you’re Wim Hof. Hof, better known as “The Iceman,” has attained roughly two dozen world records by completing marvellous feats of physical endurance in conditions that would kill others. Yet even he was understandably nervous the night before his 26-mile jaunt at -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
“What did I get myself into?” he recalls thinking. But from the moment his bare toes hit the snow, he began to feel “surprisingly good.”
MRI scans reveal that Wim Hof artificially induces a stress response in his brain. “By accident or by luck he found a hack into the physiological system,” they say.
We know that communication matters – in regard to any human exchange and any human relationship. We can also consider the words we use, and the way we use them, in relation to their value as ‘placebo’. The effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of communication can generate a placebo (or nocebo) effect, evidenced very clearly in the way that health practitioners interact with their clients, as illustrated in this article in the Irish Times, “Doctors Say One Thing. Patients Often Hear Something Else”.
“How patients frame questions and how doctors frame advice is an important element in successful health communication. Behavioural economists describe a phenomenon known as loss aversion: as humans, we are primed to feel losses nearly twice as heavily as we appreciate gains.
So for actions that we perceive as risky, a health message that presents the lack of action as an even greater risk is more effective. However, for actions that we don’t see as especially risky, presenting the action itself as beneficial has been shown to produce a better behavioural response.”
Damien Finniss was working as a physiotherapist when, on a still winter’s afternoon in 2001, he set up his treatment table in a shed at the perimeter of a Sydney footy ground.
As players came off with sundry aches – a pulled hammy here, a calf strain there – Finniss ministered to them with therapeutic ultrasound, a device that applies sound waves to the injured area with a handheld probe.
“I treated in excess of five or six athletes during the training session. I’d treat them for five or 10 minutes and they’d say ‘I feel much better’ and run back on to the training field,” recalls Finniss, now a medical doctor and Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s Pain Management and Research Institute.
“But, at the end of the session, I realised that I’d, basically, had the machine turned off.”
Meanwhile, in Germany, researchers reveal some convincing evidence of the impact of the placebo effect, discovering that “a person’s expectations have a major influence on just how strenuous they perceive exercise to be.”
‘Cognitive enhancers’? Oh, do us a favour. Highly hyped and highly price energy drinks like Red Bull are all about the sugar and the caffeine, that’s all. Lots of sugar and caffeine. So why pay the premium, the enormous mark-up? It’s marketing, probably one of the shiniest examples of the placebo effect in marketing. Some science on this over here.
According to The Science of Us (and leaving aside the well known issues related to our excessive consumption of the stuff) the concept of ‘the sugar high’ is something of a parenting urban legend; plenty of research has shown that feeding kids sugar doesn’t make them hyper. What it does do, though, is prime their parents to look for signs of misbehavior.
In part, pediatric researcher Mark Wolraich told Geggel, the misconception stems from the fact that sugar often marks a special occasion: When kids are stuffing themselves with birthday cake or Halloween candy, they’re already in a situation where they’re going to be naturally amped up. But “[parents’] ideas are reinforced by seeing it in those circumstances,” Wolraich said. “The placebo effect can be very powerful.”
“The placebo effect should be the subject of major, funded research efforts. If medical researchers could figure out how to leverage the placebo effect, they would hand doctors an efficient, energy-based, side effect-free tool to treat disease. Energy healers say they already have such tools, but I am a scientist, and I believe the more we know about science of the placebo, the better we’ll be able to use it in clinical settings.”
There’s so much attention right now given to Olympic atheletes’ use of ‘placebo’ rituals and objects, from favourite items of underwear to ancient Chinese ‘cupping’ techniques and herbal supplements.
“Judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison wears the lucky socks that were a gift from her grandmother. Hockey player Alex Danson spins her stick 15 times before each game. Tennis player Rafael Nadal takes alternating sips from two water bottles at every break between games.”
“In sports, it’s a little different in that in the vast majority of cases relying on the placebo effect probably won’t hurt, and in many cases might actually help because of the power of belief. Aside from some potential BO, is it really a problem that an athlete regularly wears the same t-shirt under his uniform to help with on-field success? In fact, savvy coaches regularly use various placebo approaches when trying to help their team with belief — and often these tactics work.”