Placebo effect

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bipedalhumanoid
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:58 pm

Ygern wrote: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.
I don't think you quite caught what I was getting at. I wasn't talking about how the placebo effect can cure stress but rather that stress can make people more succeptable to illness and reduce our capacity to recover from illness.

So if I have an illness that is causing me stress and a person I trust hands me a magic red sugar pill and assures me it will cure me, immediately I feel less stressed due to the belief that I will be cured.

I can't quote any studies, but I know my Dr at least believes that a reduction in stress can help the natural healing process. That's why she gives me time off work when I have ailments such as chest infections as an alternative to prescribing antibiotics.
"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.
oldrnwisr
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by oldrnwisr » Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:37 pm

Bipedalhumanoid wrote:I can't quote any studies, but I know my Dr at least believes that a reduction in stress can help the natural healing process. That's why she gives me time off work when I have ailments such as chest infections as an alternative to prescribing antibiotics.
Bip, you and your doctor are correct. When the body experiences instances of stress (particularly emotional stress) cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid with a chemical structure similar to that of testosterone. The effect of testosterone on the immune system has been well documented both in humans and in zoology. There are also some studies on the effect of cortisol on immunity.

A study of cortisol levels in children in the West Indies has shown that they are much more likely to catch an infection following high cortisol levels.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/7318517443417353/


Stress, testosterone and the immunoredistribution hypothesis

http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/content/10/3/345.full


Effects of cortisol and stress on the immune system in Atlantic Salmon

http://tinyurl.com/5ungatj

Hope that helps.
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Ygern
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Ygern » Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:56 pm

bipedalhumanoid wrote:
I don't think you quite caught what I was getting at. I wasn't talking about how the placebo effect can cure stress but rather that stress can make people more succeptable to illness and reduce our capacity to recover from illness.
Yes, the benefits of relieving stress is a reasonably well understood physiological effect. The body's normal energy reserves can only deal with so many processes. If you are exhausted & stressed then most of your reserves are being used just to keep you going, and fewer resources are available to keep your immune system functioning optimally.
So if I have an illness that is causing me stress and a person I trust hands me a magic red sugar pill and assures me it will cure me, immediately I feel less stressed due to the belief that I will be cured.

I can't quote any studies, but I know my Dr at least believes that a reduction in stress can help the natural healing process. That's why she gives me time off work when I have ailments such as chest infections as an alternative to prescribing antibiotics.
I see what you are getting at & I agree with what you say. However the two examples you talk about here are quite different. Taking a break from work is a sensible thing to do as it frees up resources to be utilised by your immune system. You feel less stressed because you genuinely are less stressed, whereas taking a red pill is a placebo effect - you feel less stressed because you believe you are getting help.

It is possible that both will get good results, but genuine rest is usually going to be better than a red sugar pill for your immune system.
The universe is huge and old, and rare things happen all the time ~ Lawrence Krauss
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bipedalhumanoid
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Sat Feb 26, 2011 2:25 am

Ygern wrote:It is possible that both will get good results, but genuine rest is usually going to be better than a red sugar pill for your immune system.
But I wasn't comparing the two. I was suggesting that they may possibly be the same phenomena.

What I'm suggesting is that the person already resting, because they are very ill and lying in a hospital bed, may still be stressed as a direct result of the illness. Give that person a red sugar pill, pat them on the head and they may feel less stressed because they are confident they will be cured... then the body does the rest.

Just an idea.
"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 Mirthomaniac » Sat Feb 26, 2011 3:21 am

I actually can relate to the idea of simply 'feeling' better about something due to reassurance. I put feeling in quotations because I usually feel both mentally and physically relieved once I have visited a GP. Very unscientific, I know, but I just can't shake the feeling that the soft science, pop culture perception of the placebo effect is on to something.

Or perhaps believing in the placebo effect makes it work. Or what if you simply believed in the idea of believing in the placebo effect for its possible medical benefits? :shock: Could it simply be that any kind of stress relief improves recovery, and by quantifying it and defining it as 'the placebo effect' we essentially create a self-fulfilling stress reliever?
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Ygern » Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:23 pm

I usually feel both mentally and physically relieved once I have visited a GP.
You're quite right, that is exactly the placebo effect. And you are not alone in feeling that.

The first time we experience it is when we fall as a baby & mum "kisses it better". It doesn't make the scraped knee heal, but it usually stops the crying.

Richard Dawkins uses the doctor effect as an example of the placebo effect himself in The God Delusion (p195):
But many's the time I've been instantly "cured" of some minor ailment by a reassuring voice from an intelligent face surmounting a stethoscope.
You trust that what ever is wrong with you is going to be sorted out. Of course that is going to make you feel better.

@ bipedalhumanoid

Sure, I agree with you that the red pill can relieve stress or tension & that perhaps the patient may not be able to relax by themselves without an intervention, even if it is a placebo intervention. And stress relieved (no matter how its achieved) has a genuine physiological benefit on the body.

I think what I was doubting that a red pill by itself (with no rest) would be as good as red pill + rest. Although I suppose that might depend on what the underlying condition is in the first place.
The universe is huge and old, and rare things happen all the time ~ Lawrence Krauss
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Dev
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Dev » Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:12 pm

mkaobrih
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by mkaobrih » Sat Feb 26, 2011 10:54 pm

I think a lot (but not all) of psychiatric drugs and anxiety drugs are just applications of the placebo effect. Mood and level of depression is just as subjective as level of pain.
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Dev » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:49 am

I would have thought they use a placebo as a control group to determine the efficacy of such drugs.
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Re: Placebo effect

Post by Ygern » Sun Feb 27, 2011 12:13 pm

Dev wrote:I would have thought they use a placebo as a control group to determine the efficacy of such drugs.
That's opening a whole 'nother can of worms. Properly conducted trials of course do involve placebos & double-blinded tests. But medicines don't always get tested like this, sometimes because of the not-too-kosher tactics of some pharmaceutical companies; and sometimes on more legitimate grounds such as not withholding a life-saving drug from a patient.

Some Ben Goldacre articles:
http://www.badscience.net/2008/01/washi ... the-model/
http://www.badscience.net/2010/08/give- ... rial-data/

There are, however, legitimate anti-depression drugs and anti-psychotic drugs that have remarkable and life-changing benefits for those who need them.

Here's a very good article debunking a news story from last year that declared that antidepressants were "useless".
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3722

Science Based Medicine is a brilliant resource if you are looking for articles on medical subjects that are both skeptical as well as written by people who understand the medical material.
The universe is huge and old, and rare things happen all the time ~ Lawrence Krauss
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