When we become unwell, we go to our doctor and are often prescribed tablets. This is an age-old concept, nonetheless it seems a pill's potency doesn't just come from the capsule itself. Rather the anticipation of its effects results in an improved condition of the consumer. In contrast, these effects are not always positive. From time to time, negative effects can also occur due to factors such as the patient's mentality towards his or her ability to get well, or even purely coincidental worsening of symptoms .
Both the nocebo and placebo effects are entirely psychogenic. That's to say, as opposed to being caused by a chemical agent in the substance itself, these reactions occur thanks to expectations about how the substance will affect them - self-fulfilling prophecies. Though they originate exclusively from psychological sources, these effects can be either physiological, or psychological.
In this week's Scientific Translational Medecine, Ted Kaptchuk enlightens us with the findings of his recent research. In this study which was conducted as part of the Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Ecounter at Beth Israel Deaconess medical center, participants (patients) self-reported changes in migraine pain. In one condition, an effective medication Maxalt was administered, whereas in the other, a placebo pill was taken. When receiving no treatment, patients reported an increase in pain. When taking a mystery pill (Maxalt or placebo), there was a 40% decrease, and finally when they knew they had taken Maxalt, there was also a reported 40% decrease. This shows that placebos rival the effect of active medication in patients. This was true for participants with asthma, cramps, bloating and diarrhea of irritable bowel syndrome.
Although this research is reliable due to numnerous replications yielding similar results, medical philosophers at the University of Copenhagen recently analysed trials that involved placebos and declared that placebos offered about the same degree of symptom relief as no medical treatment. Critics...