Throughout history, we have heard about, seen and even consumed modern-day placebo effects. In fact, western medicine has even identified certain foods that can increase or decrease the effects of pain and other bodily ailments. Pain relief is a major interest among many people as well as the medical industry. As one of the largest industries in the world, pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars each year on researching cures and treatments for ailments. Pain relief is a necessary and important aspect of modern-day medicine. However, as much as doctors depend on the placebo effect to help us find treatments and cures, there are also critics who question its use.
The placebo effect is described as the phenomenon where the person believes that they are receiving beneficial treatment when they are not. For example, pain relief is sought after by those who are injured or have illnesses. Many people seek out and consume products that advertise pain relief when it could be a placebo, especially if the product does not have FDA approval.
Modern Day Placebo Effects
The placebo effect occurs when a person is susceptible to the influence of another person’s feelings. The person’s beliefs could be that the product they are consuming or trying to use will aid them in overcoming pain. Many people may not even recognize that they are under the influence of another’s mind when it comes to pain management. However, the treatment or procedure will still be successful because the person believes that it will work. The problem arises when the patient continues to use the treatment even after the original doctor has stopped administering it.
Some people believe that pain management is not only a waste of time and money but may also be harmful. Some patients feel as if they are being tricked into continuing with the treatment when it should only be discontinued months later. This is a double standard that violates Article 32 of the Basic Principles of Medical Practice, which states that “The physician must determine the effect of any medication, whether external or internal, on the total physical and mental condition of the patient before treating it.” Although there are cases where the pain is so acute that physicians cannot afford to continue it, they must not mislead patients to continue the course of treatment. This is especially important in the case of an anaesthetic.
A Much Ado
It is not uncommon for people to think that a pain-related placebo effect exists. For instance, some people may continue to take painkillers despite the fact that it has been found that the drug has virtually no effect in actually reducing pain. This leads to a conundrum: how can doctors continue to administer drugs to people suffering from chronic pain when it has been found that it does not help them? This is the kind of situation that doctors will avoid at all costs.
One way to understand the modern-day placebo effects is to look at the results of clinical trials. Usually, patients who have been put under controlled conditions will experience pain relief to one degree or another. Sometimes, the relief is complete. Other times, it comes only after a serious surgical procedure. These results do not necessarily mean that the painkillers are effective, but it does mean that placebo effects do occur.
The reason why painkillers are effective is that the brain believes that a person is in pain. This part of the brain is called the “pain processing network” and is more powerful than the “calories network”, which controls the release of glucose into the bloodstream. The pain processing circuit is so strong, in fact, that it overrides the conscious mind’s control over the pain response. Because a person feels pain, the brain continues to send signals to the rest of the body, including the muscles, telling them that there is damage occurring. This is why you get a “tingle-like” sensation when you have a pulled muscle or hurt finger – you are just as likely to suffer an injury without realizing it as you are when you consciously decide to ignore pain.
One of the most intriguing aspects of modern-day placebo effects is how a simple thing like the appearance of a toothbrush can make someone assume that they are better or worse off than they actually are. A common experiment began with a nurse who gave participants toothbrushes that were different from the norm. Half of the participants received the fake brush, and half did not. The result was amazing: those that received the fake toothbrushes felt significantly better about their physical state! This has prompted many researchers to theorize that there may be an unseen pain processing pathway within the brain that is responsible for the placebo effects. It is, perhaps, just a matter of discovering this pathway so that the secrets of modern-day placebo effects can be unlocked.