Thursday, November 8, 2018

The power of placebo

Modern medicine has transformed how we think about disease. Operation and pills have been such successful treatment options that we had the false hope of eliminating the disease. However, the side effects of illness and the human condition, such as depression, chronic pain, anxiety, and fatigue have been challenging for traditional medicine to address. These conditions are rooted in complex brain states, conditioning, individual beliefs, expectation, and social environment. 

Doctors and nurses often can tell at the first meeting whether the patient will get better or succumb to the disease. The conditions of the medical treatment are responsible for a substantial part of the healing. Effects that do not come from direct therapy are called placebo. Placebo responses can be significant. Recent evidence suggests that genetic variation also plays a role in the placebo response. A large part of the overall therapeutic response to drugs, surgery, psychotherapy, and other treatments may be due to the way the medication is administered and the patient’s views about it, rather than the specific treatment itself.

Considering placebo effects is crucial because drug effects interfere with internal psychological and brain processes. Individuals, who show reduced activity in brain areas associated with pain and negative emotion but greater activation in the frontal cortex and brainstem, produce the most significant drug effects. Significant drug reaction parallels greater placebo response. The latter requirements include a greater openness toward emotional and physical experiences and well-being and the ability for detachment from pain and discomfort. Thus, the effectiveness of treatments depends on the psychological or social support of the patient as well.

The promise of treatment is already a powerful physiological remedy. 

Picture credit: Created by Topntp26 -

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