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Does The Placebo Effect Really Work?

2931 words - 12 pages

“Does the placebo effect really work?”

We’ve all been there, sitting in the waiting room surrounded by people coughing a spluttering all over you, surely making you worse rather than better. Then, half an hour after your appointment time, your name is called and you reach the safe (sanitary) haven of the doctor’s office. After a poke and a prod, and a rather uncomfortable “Aaaaahh!” with an ice-lolly stick half way down your throat and a light shone down the dark cavern of your oesophagus, finally! A diagnosis! A prescription is written with the promises of improved health within a week; so off you go to the chemist to pick up whatever anti-biotic someone’s whipped up in a laboratory, or at least that’s what you’re lead to believe. What if that magic remedy isn’t actually magic, not really medication, but made of something as simple as sugar?

What is the placebo effect?
Due to moral conduct, the doctor is not actually allowed to do this however some people believe that no matter what you’re treated with; real medication or a sugar pill; the results should be the same. This is known as “the placebo effect”. It is defined by Oxford dictionary as “a medicine or procedure prescribed for the psychological benefit to the patient rather than for any physiological effect” and is frequently described as the power of the mind over the body. As well as sugar pills, studies have shown that injections of salt water and even false operations have shown placebo effect results. A placebo is most commonly explained using it as a medical example however it is the explanation to many other phenomenon such as hypnosis and pseudocyesis (phantom pregnancy) and even in weight loss.
Doctors and psychologists are not one hundred percent sure what actually happens within the brain that makes the placebo effect work as there has only been a few investigations into the matter. However, it does work, despite a person’s mind set or age. Studies have even shown that the placebo effect occurs in animals. (Freeman, Shanna. (2005))

The History of the placebo effect.
Now days, a placebo is used as a control within the medical world. To be approved, a new medication has to perform better than a placebo sugar pill however many people argue that the placebo should be available as a medication itself.
However, placebos have been known about for hundreds of years. The word “placebo” was first used in the Vulgate (Latin translated bible by Jerome (342 – 420)) and translates into “I shall please”. However, historians think that the concept of a placebo was alive long before the bible as they believe that Stonehenge was used as a “placebo hospital”. They interpret that people thought that the stones possessed magical healing powers and if they touched them, then the powers would be absorbed by their body and they would be cured. (The Royal Institution. (2013)) Obviously Stonehenge does not contain magic powers therefor the improvement that people experienced all those years ago was not...

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