In my critical thinking lesson today something we studied was the placebo effect, which I found very interesting and so read up some more on it and here is what I found…
First of all I’m just going to break down what the placebo effect is to those who are unaware… The placebo effect is basically what happens when a person takes a medication that he or she thinks will help, but it actually has no proven therapeutic effect for his or her particular condition. For example if you weren’t feeling very well and went to the doctors the doctor may prescribe you with some medicine. So you take this medicine and take it in good faith that it will make you feel better and you do end up feeling better. But then you find out that the medicine you were taking which ‘made you feel better’ had no biological effect to help your recovery and in fact did not help you at all, suggesting your recovery was heavily dependent on the psychological side of your recovery, as you were unaware of the fact.
So what’s this new research found out? Well, that the placebo effect works even when people know they are taking a dummy drug… Crazy right? Traditionally it was thought that sugar pill were only effective when their clinical inefficacy was hidden from the patient.
Researchers at Harvard University in the US and the University of Basel in Switzerland conducted an experiment on 160 volunteers who were asked to put their arm on a heating plate until they could no longer withstand the pain. All were then given placebos, but one third of the group were told they they had received the topical painkiller lidocaine to help with the burn. A second group was warned the cream was only a placebo but also given a 15 minute talk explaining how dummy drugs can help. A control group was told they would have a placebo, but without any additional commentary. The results showed that those who knew about the placebo experienced similar pain relief as those who thought they had been administered with lidocaine. In contrast the control group were left in uncomfortable pain.
What does this mean? As well as being a fascinating piece of science that could definitely be of use in peoples recovery in the future when we learn how to use it most effectively as this is relatively new information, but for now it is being perceived as a breakthrough that could lead to cheap medicines which work by the power of suggestion alone.