The worst thing for placebo-believers to hear is that placebos are a myth. Even if they do work, there is no real consistent scientific results. The only way for this scam medication to do its intended job is for it to be unknown to the patient. If a sick individual really wants to be healthy, they would do everything they can to get what they want. We can apply this to the placebo effect. Patients most of the time want to feel better, free of unnecessary stress and setbacks caused by the disorder they have. The solution to their ills is all about having the right mind-set. Having an optimistic personality would help as well. Only the patient can decide whether they feel better or not. Without the right attitude, it is very unlikely the patient will discover how to end their suffering. Since placebos are based solely on the psychological reaction based on belief, should doctors be involved in the belief-based system.
Placebos are used mainly to heal a patient that has minor symptoms. They aren’t really effective with real diseases and disorders. What I mean by this is that placebos can’t cure cancer or diabetes. They can at most help ease some pain, but not cure these serious conditions fully. In a study involving placebo effects and acupuncture, 12 people were interviewed at the start, middle, and end of a trial for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Each person were to give their thoughts on placebos. The four conceptualizations made were ‘placebos are necessary for research; placebo effects are fake; placebo acupuncture is not real acupuncture; placebos have real effects mediated by psychological mechanisms.” By the end of the trial, the results of the study were nearly half and half. Some believed had “positive conceptualizations” of placebos and others believed that people who had those conceptualizations were “gullible.”
In a study, conducted by Brian J. Anderson, Gerald A. Woollard, and Nicholas H. Holford, they recorded effects of Acetaminophen analgesia and placebo in children undergoing outpatient tonsillectomy. Acetaminophen is a brand of analgesic used to relieve pain. These children were randomly selected from a group of 9±3.0-year-olds with a weight of 37.9±16.6 kg. They were to respond with a pain score after taking either the drug or placebo after a certain period of time of 4-8 hours. The results showed that even in high dosage, the acetaminophen didn’t have much of an effect than a lower dosage of the same drug, and that it came with side effects such as nausea and vomiting. The placebo had a higher pain reduction than the acetaminophen. Even when combined, the pain reduction was less than the placebo effect by itself. In this study, placebos are counterproductive to the scientific basis of medicine. It even questions the ability of medicine to heal patients when faced against belief based medicine.
As said by Florida Law Review, placebos should have no effect on a patient’s health. The trust in placebos that physicians have nowadays are increasing at a rapid rate. If it’s cheaper and more efficient to use, then why not use them? The use of deception makes the therapeutic placebo seem like a real treatment. Some physicians believe placebos work and make their patients feel better, but they were not so sure how they worked. It makes no logical sense for medical professionals to participate in the prescription of a treatment which they don’t understand. In addition to this, the relationship between the physician and patient is affected by whether a placebo works on the patient or not. Proof of a powerful placebo will cause the medical world to question the practice of medicine. However, there is an inconsistency in determining if placebos do in fact work. If somehow proven that the placebo effect works, physicians may have to reconsider their methods of prescribing them. Not only does this affect the relationship between physician and patient, but also the legal team is involved now too. Lawyers are going to have to reexamine the degree of deception, these doctors will be allowed to use legally. With the proper consent of the patient, physicians may prescribe whatever placebo they think is needed. However, by definition, having actual consent would prove to be detrimental to the effect of the placebos. It’s up to pharmaceutical companies and even the physician to emphasize the side effects, positive or negative, of the drug given to the patient. Without the ultimate use of deception, none of these scenarios would work anyways.
Anderson, B. J., Woollard, G. A., & Holford, N. H. (2001, October). “Acetaminophen analgesia in children: Placebo effect and pain resolution after tonsillectomy.” Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s002280100367
Bishop, F. L., Jacobson, E. E., Shaw, J. R., & Kaptchuk, T. J. (2012, January 18). “Scientific tools, fake treatments, or triggers for psychological healing: How clinical trial participants conceptualise placebos.” Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953612000160
Boozang, K. M. (2002). “The therapeutic placebo: The case for patient deception.” Florida Law Review, 54(4), 687-746. Retrieved from
Miller, F. G., Wendler, D., & Swartzman, L. C. (2005). “Deception in Research on the Placebo Effect.” PLoS Medicine, 2(9), 853–859. https://doi-org.ezproxy.rowan.edu/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020262