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Medicine Science

Beware the Nocebo Effect 239

An article at the NY Times looks at research into the "nocebo" effect. Named after the placebo effect, it's the term for when patient expectations do harm, rather than good. "When a patient anticipates a pill’s possible side effects, he can suffer them even if the pill is fake." The article describes several instances of patients getting the placebo in a drug trial, but reporting the expected side effects of the drug, rather than the benefits or nothing at all. Quoting: "Consider the number of people in medical trials who, though receiving placebos, stop participating because of side effects. We found that 11 percent of people in fibromyalgia drug trials who were taking fake medication dropped out of the studies because of side effects like dizziness or nausea. Other researchers reported that the discontinuation rates because of side effects in placebo groups in migraine or tension drug trials were as much as 5 percent. Discontinuation rates in trials for statins ranged from 4 percent to 26 percent. ... In one remarkable case, a participant in an antidepressant drug trial was given placebo tablets — and then swallowed 26 of them in a suicide attempt. Even though the tablets were harmless, the participant's blood pressure dropped perilously low."
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Beware the Nocebo Effect

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  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @06:46PM (#40952559)
    No surprise here, the mind controls the body. Why wouldn't the placebo effect work both ways?
  • by ilikenwf ( 1139495 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @06:47PM (#40952569)

    And even if I did, I wouldn't get my info about them from the freaking commercials that list off what it's for, the horrendous side effects, as it shows a happy family playing outside, and then says "ask your doctor..." WTF?

    The US is the only nation that allows pharma ads, and they're really harming our society because people go to the doc and demand certain meds as a result of these commercials. Enjoy your diharrea, heart palpitations, mild depression and thoughts of suicide.

    This all relates back to the article, as these nocebo effects are a result of stupid people taking advice from even more idiotic marketing people about what drugs they need, for fake diseases like restless leg syndrome, and miracle cures that don't work and just cause you to die like the numerous discontinued drugs caught up in class action lawsuits for wrongful death.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 10, 2012 @06:59PM (#40952677)

    Fake disease? Restless leg syndrome is a real disease. Just because many claim to have the disease, while they dont, does not make the disease fake.

  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @07:08PM (#40952755) Homepage Journal

    Drinks with HFCS give me migraines, for example. A sugar placebo would certainly have side effects not even considering the mind over matter aspect of the situation.

    I think you might be begging the question here - precluding a nocebo effect based on something that may very well be a nocebo effect.
    Or have you been through double blind tests?

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @07:19PM (#40952861)

    Fibromyalgia isn't a disease, it's just a fancy word for muscle pain.

    It really means the doctor couldn't come up with a good diagnosis but they needed to call it something to get the patient out of their office.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 10, 2012 @07:48PM (#40953127)

    or that Chiropractic treatment works. Or homeopathy, crystals, accupunture, tiger penis soup, Sea Horse balls, etc ...

    And I once argued with a psychologist about their efficacy (for therapy). For the patient to get better, they have to want to change; then doesn't that make it a placebo?

    "No!" blah balh blah blah.

    "I see. But when I take a antibiotic, it either works or it doesn't. My belief or desire for it to work is irrelevant."

    And then there are the very compelling arguments with data of the efficacy of anti-depressants.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, go ahead acuse me of being a Scientologist. But even kooks can be right sometimes for the wrong reasons. for example, Mormons. They say you can't drink alcohol.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 10, 2012 @08:12PM (#40953305)

    Seriously? +4 insightful for "What if scientists haven't considered that inactive ingredients might not be inactive?" At least four people thought that was a valid, interesting point?

    Dude, how much fucking sugar do you think is in a sugar pill?

  • by DMUTPeregrine ( 612791 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @08:46PM (#40953543) Journal
    Psychological therapy works by using a conscious desire for change to find subconscious causes of undesired behavior and eliminate them. It is arguably psychosomatic, but not all psychosomatic effects are placebo effects.
  • by Smauler ( 915644 ) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @02:25AM (#40955143)

    I can control my heartbeat at will, to some degree. If my heart gets a massive blockage in it, I won't be able to think it out.

    Mothers don't lift overturned vehicles, they lever them on pivots - an overturned vehicle is relatively easy to move around comparative to to weight it is, because it's sitting on it's top.

    Perpetuating the myth that mothers can do extraordinary feats in times of crisis slams guilt on those mothers that did not manage to save their child when then did all they could.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...