I’d love to give a drug called obecalp to my patients as it would help cure so many symptoms. But obecalp is not a real drug or is it? You see, obecalp is placebo spelled backwards.
Now placebos are not a trick that is performed by a magician or even a physician, actually placebos represent a real effect. Honest!
For instance, some trials with antidepressants show both efficacy greater than placebo and some show equivalency to placebo. So the placebo effect is the real deal. And it isn’t easy for researchers to show efficacy of a medicine that exceeds a placebo.
Acupuncture can be done at the wrong spots and yet still be effective. Perhaps there is a strong placebo effect at work. I always wondered how coronary artery bypass could be done with acupuncture in China.
I have a saying, “Your beliefs determine your destiny.” Perhaps the Chinese have a greater belief in acupuncture which juices up the results. Don’t get me wrong, acupuncture truly works but positive beliefs probably enhance its effect.
So the placebo effect is the real deal and this can be demonstrated by blood flow changes in the brain on MRI. Essentially, a placebo can create chemicals in the brain that create the desired effect and it can be measured objectively.
For instance an antidepressant can help reduce stress and sadness. This occurs due to changes in brain chemistry. But a placebo antidepressant sometimes can be just as efficacious as the true medicine!
Interestingly, even if both doctor and patient know that the drug is a placebo, it still works! Why is that? Nobody really knows for sure but here is my hypothesis.
The emotional child within us functions at a 3 year old level. A 3 year old wants to believe in miracle cures and such strong emotion may even override our reasoning mind. Hope is a very strong emotion.
So here is a concise summary about placebos with additional data:
—Placebos clearly work.
—Changes occur in the brain on MRI with placebos.
—Empathy and caring can increase its effect.
—Placebos probably work better if both doctor and patient are oblivious.
—The placebo can work even if the patient knows it’s a placebo.
—-Genetics may also play a role a placebo’s effect.
—-Placebos might work better if there is perceived value such as a cost for the pill.
Yes, I’d love to sell obecalp in the office. The side effects are low, the cost is reasonable and it works! Ahh but it remains an ethical dilemma. Will you let me proceed? Because you’ll probably get better!