The placebo effect

I read a brief report of another "placebo"  study this morning.  The novel thing in the study was that the subjects were told that they were being giving a placebo, an ostensibly inert substance, but to take it anyway and see if it worked.  Of course it worked, it reduced their symptoms measurably.

Medicine now regards the placebo as one of the most powerful and effective medicines in medicine.  Ponder that for a little while,.  One often hears the injunction, "Use a new drug/medicine right away before the effectiveness disappears."  This is of course another tribute to the power of the placebo.

From the 1950's, when the placebo effect was first examined empirically (shaman and other non-medical healers had been using the placebo effect for centuries) researchers initially thought in terms of "controlling" for the placebo effect by designing what came to be known as "double blind" experiments that kept the researcher and the patient in the dark as to whether they were gutting "real" medicine or a placebo until the end of the study.  It was thought that in this manner the "real" effect of the experimental condition could be analyzed.  Researchers often neglect to mention how powerful the effect was in the "placebo group."

More recently with an acceptance of how powerful the placebo effect really is, researchers have been studying the effect itself and attempting to determine the underlying mechanisms.  Cortical connections with the immune system seem implicated but the data are not complete.  The short story is though that positive attitudes, positive expectations and strong beliefs can have a powerful effect on the course of illness.

"As a man believe in his heart so it shall be done unto him." is a Biblical quote that captures the picture nicely.  Belief can in some measure make "it" happen, make" it" true.  There is something obviously about intensity of motivation here, about desire.

A.A. asks the recovering person to believe that there is "Power," any power the person wishes to believe in, and that this "Power" can be utilized to free the person from alcoholism.  This notion fits in with a larger set of ideas epitomized by the placebo effect, the power of positive thinking, the power of self suggestion that can all work together in a "way of life," supported by a group of similarly motivated others, that can produce truly astonishing changes in an individual's life.


Premium Drupal Themes by Adaptivethemes