How the placebo effect works: what the science says
The fact that the connection between the body and the mind is sometimes stronger than some might believe illustrates the seemingly ghostly effect of so-called placebos on our bodies’ healing and recovery processes. Placebos, that is, dummy drugs or dummy therapies without active ingredients or modes of action, have the potential to alleviate certain disease-related symptoms. A classic example is homeopathy, in which small inactive sugar globules are administered to relieve pain, soothe or resolve other physical and mental ailments.
As unscientific as fake drugs and treatments may seem, placebos are an integral part of science. For example, placebos appear in all serious studies for the approval of new drugs. In studies, participants are often divided into at least two groups. One group receives the approved drug with the actual active ingredient, the so-called control group receives only an inactive placebo. In this way, researchers can verify if treatment successes can be attributed to an active ingredient or if they have other as-yet-undiscovered causes.
And how it works?
Placebos are based on the positive expectations of those affected and thus address the connection between the body and the mind. Because the way we think about a treatment, a drug or a medical measure, what we expect from it and how it can affect certain areas of our body can directly influence the desired result. The placebo effect acts as a psychosocial effect. This means that we also expect positive effects from things that we have observed to be effective and useful in other people. Conditioning also plays a role. If certain things have already helped in the past, they or similar things will also help in the future.
For example, it is helpful to dry the big crocodile tears and relieve pain when mom or dad gently blows on the children’s scraped knees, or when doctors explain to us in the hospital exactly how and how the next procedure will improve. our symptoms. The placebo effect works miraculously, but it is only a targeted activation of our positive expectations.
3 Facts About Placebos That Are Really Surprising
Injected placebos work better than those in pill form
Our positive expectations actually seem to be shaped by the way placebos are administered to us. Studies have already found that placebos injected with a syringe may be more effective than those in pill form. Background: Study participants expected a greater effect from the injections. In addition, through the puncture a direct stimulation is produced, it can be observed how the placebo liquid from the syringe -usually table salt- penetrates the vein.
Placebos work even when you know they are.
The “magic” of the placebo effect does not seem to depend on the ignorance of those affected. In a 2014 study, researchers divided migraine sufferers into three groups. The first group received pills with actual active ingredients. These pills were labeled with the name of the drug. The second group received a placebo. These pills were actually labeled “placebo.” The third group did not receive any medication. It turns out that the placebo in the second group was still 50 percent more effective than the drug in the first group.
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Placebos work in animals too
The result of this investigation also surprised us. Apparently placebos also work in animals. In 2010, a research team studied the efficacy of an antiepileptic drug for dogs. The drug with the active ingredient relieved seizures in 86 percent of the dogs. However, the placebo in the control group also improved seizures in 79 percent of the animals. It is unlikely that the furry and furry friends optimized their own expectations regarding the positive effects of the administered drug and that the placebo became effective as a result. However, the researchers surmise that the placebo had a much more subconscious effect on the animal’s owners. They probably took more loving care of their sick animals during the clinical study. This extra bit of care can sometimes be enough to make our furry friends feel a little better.