Thursday, December 23, 2010
Placebos work even when patients know it's a placebo
A while back I blogged about my personal mystification at what appeared to be an instance of the placebo effect at work even though I knew that it was a placebo. In my case, I had some medicine prescribed and I filled the prescription, but my condition improved before I actually took any of the medicine. Now a new study indicates that this might not have been a fluke. The LA Times reports that Placebos work, even when patients are in the know, study finds.
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Which is why researchers in that field like to talk about "context effects" instead of "placebo effects".
It's not only the person's own believe in getting better but a whole lot of things, like
- going out to visit the doc instead of laying in bed all day
- talking to someone who cares, social interaction
- distraction (if you're sick, it helps a lot to not think about vomitting)
This is especially true for homeopathic and other alternative treatment methods, since they often involve more discussion/interaction that the usual doctor's visit.
While this doesn't mean that homeopathic medicine is any good, it certainly means that the treatment itself is useful and should be examined for application in or change of "regular" medicine.
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