Placebo effect

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mkaobrih
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Placebo effect

Post by mkaobrih » Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:27 pm

This thread is about the Placebo effect. I just think this is amazing. It’s like mind over body, illness, pain and perception. My other half invests a lot in drug trials that are routinely fucked up by placebo effect. I’d like to see a scientific examination of this very surreal phenomenon. It’s a bit unfortunate that doctors can’t prescribe sugar pills any more – but I suppose they could point people towards homeopathy (I’m reading Ben Goldacre at the moment). Placebo effect rocks (but I don’t know why).
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Ter
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Ter » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:12 am

It's something I would be interested in too, but I have to confess that I would not have looked at it in too much depth. A few years back I submitted a research proposal to a medical conference to investigate the possiblity of a negative placebo effect, but unfortunately they didn't think it was worth pursuing, sigh.

Considering the power of the placebo effect, I was curious to know if people who had negative experieces with doctors/drugs in the past, would be less likely to see benefit from normally effective medications, or indeed a higher rate of complications/drug reactions.
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Ygern » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:36 am

Dylan Evans, who is one of our members in Cork, has written a book on the subject http://www.dylan.org.uk/placebo.html
It must be pretty good because Simon Singh quoted it when he wrote Trick or Treatment. I haven't read it yet, although I have read Ben Goldacre's Bad Science. Interestingly, Dr Steve Novella from Skeptics Guide to the Universe fame said one has to be careful not to overstate the power of the placebo effect. There are things it cannot do.

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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Omar Gawd » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:46 am

"mind over matter", if you don't mind, it don't matter.......! :D
Dev
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Dev » Wed Feb 23, 2011 1:28 am

Apparently this is the one time that it pays to be credulous and non-skeptical. People who are typically considered to be credulous have a higher success rate with placebos e.g. kids. People with Alzheimer's disease can't/have difficulty to experience the effect (they have no expectations).
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by mkaobrih » Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:53 am

I particularly like the fact that some pills work better then others for certain illness depends on what colour they are and that fake injections work better then fake pills and fake operations work even better.
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:49 am

I wonder to what degree, if any, it's about stress. If the patient feels they're getting good treatment they're more relaxed and their bodies get a chance to do what bodies do naturally and heal themselves.
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Ygern » Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:17 am

The placebo effect only works up to a point. It is most effective on conditions that are somewhat subjectively reported e.g. pain.
Like God, placebos do not heal amputees.
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Ter
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Ter » Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:54 pm

Unfortunately I don't have a link, but I read a report that stated that 80% of trips to the doctors are for problems that will resolve anyway, so 80% of patients will get better with no treatment. Basically it was a discussion on the effects of the doctors role in providing reassurance. Some of these patients if given a placebo might well swear by their effectivness.

@bipedalhumanoid, you might be on to somthing with stress, I imagine stress reduction could be a factor both in "sugar-pill" placebos and alternative treatments.
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Ygern » Wed Feb 23, 2011 3:17 pm

Stress like pain is one of those subjective, self-reported conditions. While both are very real, there seems to be a great deal of variance in how much individuals can cope with, and how badly individuals say they are suffering as a consequence.
This is one of the reasons that both are so susceptible to the placebo effect.

As far as spontaneous recovery goes, this is what is called regression to the mean an it happens with many conditions, even some serious one e.g. colds, flu, chickenpox, chronic back pain etc. People can all too easily attribute recovery to an intervention (pills, therapy, voodoo etc) instead of realising that they were going to get better anyway.

Here's a link to a useful summary of the placebo effect and some related studies: http://www.skepdic.com/placebo.html
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