Why Does the Placebo Effect Occur

what is the placebo effect

What is the Placebo Effect? A placebo is simply a drug or substance that is supposed to have no medicinal value whatsoever. More common placebos contain inert vitamins, inert botanical drugs, sham cancer surgery, and many other medical procedures. These placebos can be given by doctors and nurses even in the hospital. The concept of a placebo was developed in 1941 by Dr. Emil Kraepelin.

The basic concept behind the placebo effect is that a person’s actual feeling of illness is caused by the mind influencing the body. For example, if a patient is scared of needles, it would be extremely hard for him to actually feel that he is ill. However, if a patient is made to feel good about receiving a needle, his mind will actually convince him that he is healthy. This has been tested by many researchers and can be seen in many studies.

What Is The Placebo Effect?

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In medical trials, volunteers are given either a real or a placebo drug. When they go home, the results from the trials will be compared to how volunteers felt prior to taking the drug. It is said that the results will show that the placebo caused a greater improvement in their condition than the drug that was given. Patients that were made to feel good actually showed a greater improvement in their condition than those who were made to feel bad. This proves that the brain can indeed work over the course of time to change one’s perception of his illness.

Although this effect is very powerful, there are also some limitations. In one study, volunteers took placebos, but in the end, the researchers found out that most of them became ill. However, this particular study did not directly involve humans; therefore, the results cannot be generalized to real-life situations. Furthermore, since these were laboratory studies, it is hard to know whether the effects observed were due to the placebo effect or an actual change in the patients’ mental state.

Limitation Of Placebo Effect

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Another limitation of the placebo effect is that there are only certain specific types of illnesses that can be effectively controlled through placebo effects. For example, the placebo effect is not effective for patients with chronic pain because the brain’s reaction to pain is to feel worse. As a result, the person becomes less likely to seek treatment. This can happen if a person already feels too ill or too sore from using pain killers or if the ailment is ongoing. People suffering from endorphins, however, do respond well to pain-relieving medications.

The placebo effect also works on people who try to get help for a physical condition but do not have the condition. Sometimes, they will take a pill for an ailment that does not exist but will still get help from the thought that the pill can make them feel better. This can lead to the discontinuation of medication once the physical effect is realized.

Things To Consider

Studies have found that classical conditioning has a strong placebo effect. In classical conditioning, the person is put in a certain situation that produces the emotional response that they are trying to avoid. Then, they are asked to do the same thing or situation but are told that they are being treated differently (like receiving a painful electric shock if they stick their hand in a fire) in order to experience the emotional effect again. Although classical conditioning is not based on science, it is effective. People who have tried this therapy report feeling better after getting the treatment.

Bottom Line

In a new study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people experience significantly less nausea when they take a placebo than when they take a medication. The study did not find that taking the placebo had any effect on heart health or levels of blood pressure, however. It is unclear why people experience less nausea when they take a pill than when they receive an injection. This is one of the first studies to directly look at the placebo effect and its relationship to psychological and physiological processes.

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