Prescribing Placebos is Common Practice

Da’Vonne Duncan

Recently, it is not uncommon that a new pain medication fails to pass a double-blind placebo control trial. In this type of trial, neither doctors or participants know which individuals are getting the active drug and who is obtaining the control sample. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH), this is the “gold standard” for testing interventions in people…” volunteers are randomly assigned to a test group receiving the experimental intervention or a control group receiving a placebo (an inactive substance that looks like the drug being tested)”.

The purpose of placebos is to help researchers determine if a new drug is truly effective. The placebo effect is known for being an intriguing phenomenon. When people ingest placebos, they develop this outcome that their health will be improved. It’s the anticipation that helps them see improved results.

Brain Resnick, publisher of “The Weird Power of the Placebo Effect, explained” mentioned a trial conducted in 1996, revealed “27 percent of patients” reported pain reduction from a new drug compared to a placebo. However, in 2013, the pain relief from placebos increased to 9 percent. This means that placebo response is on the rise and the need for active drugs is slowly lessening.

In the article, “What Is the Placebo Effect?” reviewed by Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on Webmd, another study exposed that people felt that the placebo inhaler was effective, not knowing they were inhaling an inactive drug. The results of the breathing test compared the effectiveness of the placebo inhaler to someone who was doing nothing.

To understand the effectiveness of placebos, one must comprehend the relationship between the mind and body. Psychology has the ability to trick the body, because if someone shifts their mindset into thinking they feel better, the outcome will soon follow. The body has to be credited as well; its chemistry can produce similar effects to medication.

In the study “When and Why Placebo-Prescribing Is Acceptable and Unacceptable: A Focus Group Study of Patients’ Views,” 18 men discussed the harm and benefit of placebos prescribing. Two perspectives were identified at the end of the study, one group felt placebos help connect the mind with the body. However, the other half mentioned that placebos create a lack of trust between physicians and patients. 

Resnick mentioned that placebos can possibly help the opioid crisis, due to decreased pain medicine prescriptions. Studies have proven that “post-op patients who require painkillers, through a pump at a hidden time had the same impact on patients who were receiving injects by a nurse.” It is “the awareness that you’re on pain relief that cause a patient to assume that the medication is working effectively for them” said Resnick.

Dr. Luana Colloca, a pain and transitional symptom scientist, discovered that neurons in the brains of individuals with Parkinson respond the same to placebos, as if the placebos were an active drug.

Although there is still a lot to learn about placebos, it is the anticipation about them that benefits patients.

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