Research is ongoing into the role of the subconscious mind in triggering both the placebo and ‘nocebo’ effect in humans, with considerable implications for health care if the research is borne out in practice. As we’ve seen elsewhere in this blog, it is quite routine, for example, for conventional medical providers to knowingly prescribe mock or ineffectual medications (such as antibiotics for viral conditions), given patient expectations and for that matter social norms. This has not been named as knowingly prescribing placebos, or knowingly invoking the placebo effect, but the research is mounting!
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.
Recent research, published in The Lancet, reveals that paracetomol, the ‘recommended first-line analgesic for acute low back pain’, is no more effective than placebo treatment. Put another way, a placebo is just as likely to generate relief as paracetomol. If you don’t want to read the Lancet report (it’s pretty dry!), there’s a brief article here.