Medical science acknowledges the fact that your mind can have power over your physical body. The mind can literally convince your body that a fake treatment has a real effect on you when in reality it doesn’t. The phenomenon has been called the placebo effect and it can be taken as an example of healing through one’s mind. It is more than just positive thinking and as per experts, it is creating a strong connection between mind and body so that they work together in coherence.
The placebo effect has been for a long used in medical trials where a fake tablet is provided to the control group to draw comparisons against the effective drug given to another group. It has often been used to highlight the properties of the effective drug in trials against it. However, studies have shown that this effect can have curative properties as well and has been found to help in the treatment of many self-reporting ailments.
What is a placebo effect?
Placebo isn’t an active treatment. It can be described as the physiological and psychological effect an inactive treatment might have on an individual. Its effects can vary from person to person and from disease to disease. The power of placebo tablets or injections lies in the expectation the person consuming them might have. The person taking this inactive medicine consumes it as something that is effective. This can change the way your mind perceives the drug. The perception that one might be consuming an effective drug can reduce the stress hormones’ activity suddenly and what earlier might be feeling like unbearable pain, the brain might perceive it as moderate uneasiness. A healthcare worker can actually generate expectations in a patient by offering them a placebo pill in a confident manner as an effective treatment for the condition. However, if the person is less trustful of the placebo pill, it can generate an opposite response called the nocebo effect that can make the symptoms worse.
Some studies show that our body has self-healing properties and the placebo effect can be one of them. As per reports, the usual response of our body against infections is fever. However, in cases of late pregnancy or malnutrition, the body might regulate its expression and might not carry out the fever response to protect the baby.
Some new areas of science have discovered the effect of brain activity on the immune system. The expectation of improvement can actually help the body develop a strong immune response. How a placebo is offered also changes its strength. Larger pills work more effectively than smaller pills and injections are more powerful than pills.
As per a study, 85 per cent of the reduction in cough is related to treatment with placebo effect. The effect has shown positive results in healing conditions like chronic pain, IBS, erectile dysfunction, anxiety disorders and others.
Sometimes, placebo pills can also be used for habit formation for instance some birth control pills might have placebo tablets.
Problem with placebo treatment
At the end of the day, a placebo pill mimics an effective treatment but in reality, it is not. Hence, its effects can’t be established objectively. Its usage raises ethical questions as the doctor might be misleading the patient. The effects of a placebo cannot be totally dismissed but studies are trying to study it as a potential treatment along with other medical interventions.