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Placebos Work -- Even Without Deception 430

An anonymous reader writes "For most of us, the 'placebo effect' is synonymous with the power of positive thinking; it works because you believe you're taking a real drug. But a new study rattles this assumption. Researchers at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have found that placebos work even when administered without the seemingly requisite deception. The study was published on December 22 in PLoS ONE."
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Placebos Work -- Even Without Deception

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  • Same Deception (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:37AM (#34651814)

    The lack of misinformation doesn't negate the plethora of ignorance - their probably thinking "they're just saying this is a placebo to test if it's really working".

  • by Lilith's Heart-shape ( 1224784 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:41AM (#34651854) Homepage
    The article suggests at the end that patients who responded to the placebos despite knowing that they were taking placebos might be benefiting from a "medical ritual", but I suspect it simpler than that. I suspect that the patients were just receiving some sort of psychosomatic benefit from having an actual human being pay attention to them for a little while. I can't prove it, but I suspect that a lot of modern chronic illnesses are psychosomatic and are a consequence of loneliness.
  • I can relate... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dejanc ( 1528235 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:45AM (#34651892)

    I have allergies each spring. After I tried several different medications, I finally found one which advertises as "non-drowsy" - essentially a low dose of loratadine. I started taking it and yeah, it both worked and didn't make me feel sleepy all day long.

    A couple of months later, I talked to a friend who is a doctor, and he told me (not knowing that I take that medication) that clinical studies for the medication showed that it worked for about 50% of people who took the drug, as well as for around 50% of people who were on placebo (I can't remember if it was 50, but the percentage was about the same). I read some more upon it, and the conclusion most knowledgeable people made was that the dosage of loratadine in the drug is too low, and that it works only as a placebo.

    Knowing what I know, I still take that medication and it still helps me. Perhaps the low dosage really works for me, but more likely, I keep being fooled by a placebo I know about...

  • by Scubaraf ( 1146565 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:48AM (#34651932)
    But he has a point. Several psychiatric drugs have been shown to be no better or worse than placebo. We didn't hear about it because these negative trials were suppressed by the drug companies. They only published the positive ones - do enough studies and one will work!

    Even the open placebo used in this study appeared as good as the leading therapy for IBS (although they weren't compared head-to-head).
  • Um.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @12:04PM (#34652076)

    If the placebo works, doesn't that mean it's not a placebo?

  • by ColoradoAuthor ( 682295 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @12:27PM (#34652326) Homepage

    I like to think of homeopathy as optimized placebo effect.

    I still haven't figured out why homeopathic pills have been so very effective in pets (mine, and those of friends), however. Does my dog sense my confidence? How does that affect measures such as thyroid levels, joint inflammation, or ability to climb stairs? As with many alternative therapies, the commonly-spouted theory makes no sense, but nevertheless there's something going on which deserves investigation.

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Thursday December 23, 2010 @12:30PM (#34652356)

    "Actually with the placebo effect people don't just feel better but get the same results they would have had they had the real medicine."

    Actually no. 'Real' medicine is considered real only if it works _considerably_ better than the placebo sugar pill the other half in the double blind tests are getting.

  • by clone52431 ( 1805862 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @12:32PM (#34652386)

    Yeah, I was thinking along the same lines. It’d be interesting to have a third group who were given the placebo pills and instructed to not take them, but instead to open up their medicine cabinet twice a day, look at their bottle of placebo pills, and think about all the people who had taken them and got imaginary benefits from them. I.e. don’t take the placebo pills – they don’t work – but think about it, since it appears to be the thought that counts. Literally.

  • by trum4n ( 982031 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @12:38PM (#34652474)
    Drink 8 cups of water a day. You'll be shocked how good you feel. 90% of humans are technically dehydrated.
  • by clone52431 ( 1805862 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @01:56PM (#34653242)

    No. You’re wrong. Just stop.

    For example:

    A placebo presented as a stimulant will have this effect on heart rhythm, and blood pressure, but when administered as a depressant, the opposite effect. Kirsch I (1997). "Specifying non-specifics: Psychological mechanism of the placebo effect". In Harrington A. The Placebo Effect: An Interdisciplinary Exploration. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 166–86. ISBN 978-0674669864. []

    The same placebo can cause two exactly opposite effects on heart rhythm and blood pressure – both measurable, real things – depending on what sort of drug the person thought the placebo was.

  • by losfromla ( 1294594 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @02:05PM (#34653338)

    I call bullshit on your bullshit. I also call bullshit on

    I read the books, he based his findings on research (not reading as claims). Clinical research on people who got better following his regiment.
    I myself have been diagnosed at various times with asthma, post-nasal drip (cough) which would require surgery to fix...
    After finding out about "The Water Cure" and drinking the requisite 8+ glasses of (purified/filtered) water per day, the cough (which was the primary manifestation of my dehydration) has stayed away for now about 3 years. I had a lapse not too long ago where I stopped taking water for a while (too busy) and the damn cough came back. So, believe what you want to believe but just know that most of what you believe about healing and your health is based on the claims of corporations and doctors (who learned what they know from the same corporations) who benefit from your poor health. I think the placebos would work great if the patients were advised to take them 3 times a day with a full glass of water in between meals. That's how the water is best absorbed and metabolized by your system.

  • Re:Nope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by radtea ( 464814 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @02:50PM (#34653692)

    EVERY test I have read about(100s) regard placebo effects show no real effect. Whether that placebo was administered by pill, fake surgery, acupuncturist, chiropractor, or prayer

    You've missed some really important and classic placebo studies then. Google "placebo opiate production" and see what you'll find. There is ample evidence that placebos are capable of increasing endogenous endorophin production, which is why they are particularly effective against pain and inflamation.

    This effect of placebos has been known for decades, so it kind of harms your credibility that you aren't aware of it.

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:17PM (#34654422) Homepage Journal

    It turns out not dosing people with mercury is better than doing so. Medical fact.

    My grandfather was in medical school in the 1910's. They had a few cadavers in the gross anatomy class where when they sawed open the long bones, mercury spilled out.

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