Who Really Benefits?
This modern world is full of life-threatening illnesses and hopeless cures. Yet, there are methods to improve the quality of living, and straying away from bad health. Everyone is different. If you look at health as a scale of different types and levels of severity, you can maybe get a more clear picture of what I’m talking about. There are two main types, physical and mental, each affecting one another. You can say your physical health is stable, but mentally you are just not up to par. Doctors and therapists use treatments and techniques to aid such cases. Many people can benefit through simple practices such as therapy, but others need some serious medical attention if they are low on that health scale. What serious medical problem would need such attention? Most likely, you find your mind leaning towards incurable diseases like cancer or polio, and you are totally right. Those are the diseases that need that extra awareness. Physically, your body is shutting down. Mentally though, you decide how you feel. So, who actually benefits from these simple practices? To answer this, it all depends on a person’s mental health. They may have some acute, temporary physical abnormalities, but as long as they have the right mindset, they can be better in no time. It wouldn’t be possible without the help from one harmless deception method, the placebo. The psychological healing process is much more effective than physiological therapy when dealing with pain or discomfort prone disorders and symptoms.
The placebo effect has been around for many years, but with the use of deception and ignorance, people don’t even notice it. A placebo should cause “clinical improvement” according to the Journal of Neuroscience. Typically, this treatment is used for cases dealing with the psychological part of the body. People that benefit more from it usually have a sort of expectancy. They expect that whatever is inside this pill, will make their pain go away. When patients are unaware they are taking a placebo and believe they are taking “real” medicine, the placebo effect usually has a positive outcome. But what happens when they know it is a “fake” drug? Harvard Medical School Professor and Director of the Harvard-wide Program in Placebo Studies, Dr. Ted J. Kaptchuk did a study on people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is a condition that causes pain in the abdominal area and diarrhea or constipation. It is more a disorder than a disease because it’s not as severe. Half of the study is getting an “open-label” placebo, while the other gets no treatment at all. The results showed that there was a vast improvement with the placebo group’s symptoms even though they knew they were taking a placebo. This group also fell that their symptoms were lessened in severity and relief was much more prominent, which in turn improved the quality of life. So is it better for the patient to be given an “open-label” placebo or to not take one at all? Or is there a more beneficial effect on a patient who receives a placebo without their knowledge? According to the results of this study particularly, an “open-label” placebo gives patients a better benefit to their symptoms than ones who didn’t take anything at all. Keep in mind that this was a study for just IBS.
What happens when you give a placebo to a person with Parkinson’s disease? A disease that involves the central nervous system, motor functions and dopamine production. For this study, patients were given a placebo, but were told that it was an antiparkinsonian drug that would help with their movements. They were injected with a saline solution that had no confirmed effect. Neuronal activity in the subthalamic nucleus was recorded before and after the procedure. The people who felt an effect showed actual bursting activity of neurons in the body, while the non responsive group, didn’t show anything. Now this raises the question of does a placebo show psychological changes, which causes physiological relief? In other words, if a placebo is only supposed to be therapeutic, is it possible that a person’s mental abilities are strong enough to make themselves cured? Placebos may in fact just be dependent on each patient. The patient who has the desire to feel better will have more of a lasting effect than the one who doesn’t even when both take a placebo.
“It has been defined as the ‘positive physiological or psychological changes associated with the use of inert medications, sham procedures, or therapeutic symbols within a healthcare encounter'” according to Franklin G. Miller.