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Placebo Effect Essay

1917 words - 8 pages

Nowadays, it is a generally acknowledged fact that most doctors prescribe or use placebo with or without patient’s consent in order to improve the outcome of the treatment. A placebo is a medically inert treatment or substance that is meant to deceive the patient so that a physical relief of symptoms and enhancement in the patient’s medical condition can be observed. Throughout the history, placebo has always been approached with apprehension and suspicion.(Horizon) It is quite a controversial subject in medicine but recent research shows that there is more to placebo than the stereotypes and the myths let on. Placebo is an effective way of treatment because the psycological expectancy and ...view middle of the document...

Although it is stil not completely clear how placebo works it is known that placebo is more effective in children than in adults(Rheims) and the variation in the outcome is due to genetic differences.(Benedetti) There are many speculations regarding placebo’s working mechanism and the reasons behind it. The three most popular are “expectancy and motivation”, “conditioning”, and “endogenous opiates” model.(Hall) These three functional models demonstrate how powerful placebo effect can be.
The first model is “conditioning”.(Hall) In this model the perception of the patient is the fact that determines the process and the extent of pain relief. If a patient healed in the past by going to a practitioner the next time he goes he will automatically condition his body to heal. His body will respond to this conditioning so that the mere suggestion will become a physical reality. Indeed, patients generally associate hospital environment and medicine with actual healing and relief of pain.(123) To illustrate this point the clinical experiment done by Dr. David Kallmes can be referred to. For many years he has fixed broken backs by a speacial injection during the operation with surprisingly good results from the procedure. After many years in order to test the effectiveness of the procedure he divided his patients into two groups and gave one group the real injection and the other placebo, a fake surgery. The patients who were informed of the universal success of the operation didn’t know about the placebo given to some of them. As a result of the experiment it was seen that there was almost no difference in the percentage of patients whose pains were relieved in both groups. (Horizon) The patients who conditioned themselves to get better after the surgery had symptom relief no matter what group they were in. The contact with a medical practitioner and the hospital environment manipulates the perception of the patient. This comes to show how basic conditioning can affect a person’s medical condition.
The second one is called “endogenous opiate”(Hall) model. This one explicitly shows the working mechanism behind placebo effect. “Endogenous opiates”(Hall) are analgesics that are produced in the brain by natural biochemical reactions. By MRI it can be seen that these self-produced painkillers are abundant in amount when placebo effect takes place. These painkillers are activated in the brain by placebo. For instance, Professor Jon Stoessly of University of British Colombia has conducted an experiment regarding this in which by this method the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are relieved. The production of dopamine hormone in scarce amounts causes this disease. Lack of this specific hormone results in obstacles in movement and other neurological problems. Stoessly made one of his patients drop other medications entirely and take placebo pills. Without any active drug the patient’s pains were relieved and had hardly any difficulty in movement. Brain scans...

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