Belief is different for everyone and each person has a belief that they feel strongly about. We can apply this to placebos. Whether one believes placebos work or not doesn’t matter. What matters is if the individual feels that it gives effective results. That can only remain true if the individual is susceptible to the idea that it will work. Open-mindedness to alternative medical therapies is the distinguishing characteristic shared by patients who report successful outcomes of placebo treatment.
Back in its earliest uses, placebos led to “the evolution of the physician from witch doctor and priest-physician” according the American Journal of Psychotherapy. Galen estimated that 60% of patients had symptoms that were emotionally based, rather than physical. The medical treatments were not trustworthy, in addition they were rarely scientifically proven to work. Patients would ingest anything given to them. Their only concern was to get better, as a result, patients gave into “therapeutic practices” such as puking, leeching, shocking to name a few. Some are still used today like heating in the sauna, freezing in an ice bath or cupping to relax muscles. As bizarre as they sound today, patients still believed that there were lasting effects. Dr. Arthur K. Shapiro, M.D. stated “medicine was closely related to the finest scientific, religious, cultural, and ethical traditions in most periods of history…” This still seems unreasonable how traditions could have an impact on their health but once again it was the psychological reaction of belief. It has been proven by history however, most of these drugs and procedures were helpful only to particular patients. If not for the temporary aid these practices provided, physicians would not be giving such prescriptions today. The only reason for patients to have believe in successful results was the fact that psychological factors forced them to. Depending on the diagnosis at hand, the effect may sometimes lead to failure. Not every disease or disorder may be cured by psychological change. When analyzing the origin of placebos, it further questions the ethics surrounding the prescription of placebos.
Open-mindedness to alternative medical therapies is the distinguishing characteristic shared by patients who report successful outcomes of placebo treatment. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, something as simple as having an expectancy can impact the neurobiological effects of a placebo. “The study of the placebo effect reflects a current neuroscientific thought that has as its central tenet the idea that ‘subjective’ constructs such as expectation and value have identifiable psychological bases, and that these bases are powerful modulators of basic perceptual, motor, and internal homeostatic processes.” This means that a placebo is just the factor that give the patients confidence in their ability to be healthy again.
Due to the physical and psychological differences, it is more reasonable to believe that minor health conditions are the only treatable cases of placebos; symptoms that can be cured through off-the-counter drugs. They may include pain or depression or other slight side effects of a disorder, but not the actual disease. Placebo effects are outcomes that positively affect the patient even when it is known they are taking a placebo in the form of an inert substance. Providers who are part of a journal company for research in dermatology and venereology investigated the effect of the simplicity of someone’s voice to get rid of itch. 92 randomized volunteers were split up to be put to the test on whether open-label suggestions had a more significant change than a control group that received no suggestions. The results barely showed a difference between the two, but the placebo group had a slightly greater reduction in itch. This revealed that verbal treatments and explanations of the effect of placebos may play a key role in clinical methods.
In a controlled trial of an open-label placebo, 46 randomized patients with allergic symptoms received placebos without deception or no pill at all. In the placebo group, positive recommendations about the placebo effect were given along with the treatment. A two week long trial showed that the open-label placebo group’s allergic symptoms had improved. According to the patients, the recommendation had no effects on their improvement. But it did help the overall well-being of the person and the “mental or emotional quality of life.”
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.
Benedetti, F., Mayberg, H. S., & Christian S. Stohler, J. Z. (2005, November 09). “Neurobiological Mechanisms of the Placebo Effect.” Retrieved from http://www.jneurosci.org/content/25/45/10390.short
Meeuwis, S. H., Van Middendorp, H., VeldHuijzen, D. S., Van Laarhoven, A. I. M., De houwer, J., Lavrijsen, A. P. M., & Evers, A. W. M. (2018). “Placebo Effects of Open-label Verbal Suggestions on Itch.” Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 98(2), 268–274. https://doi-org.ezproxy.rowan.edu/10.2340/00015555-2823
Schaefer, M., Sahin, T., & Berstecher, B. (2018). “Why do open-label placebos work? A randomized controlled trial of an open-label placebo induction with and without extended information about the placebo effect in allergic rhinitis.” PLoS ONE, 13(3), 1–14. https://doi-org.ezproxy.rowan.edu/10.1371/journal.pone.0192758
Shapiro, A. K., M.D. (2018, April 30). “Factors Contributing to the Placebo Effect.” Retrieved from https://psychotherapy.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.1964.18.s1.73