Grace Gawler Writes About the Placebo Effect in Healing and Cancer Part One

What is a Placebo? The Placebo effect (Latin placebo, “I shall please”), also known as non-specific effects and the subject-expectancy effect, is the phenomenon that a patient’s symptoms can be alleviated by an otherwise ineffective treatment, since the individual expects or believes that it will work. Some people consider this to be a remarkable aspect of human physiology; others consider it to be an illusion arising from the way medical experiments were conducted.

What is Nocebo effect: In the opposite effect, a patient who disbelieves in a treatment may experience a worsening of symptoms. This nocebo effect (nocebo translates from Latin as “I shall harm”) can be measured in the same way as the placebo effect, e.g., when members of a control group receiving an inert substance report a worsening of symptoms. The recipients of the inert substance may nullify the placebo effect intended by simply having a negative attitude towards the effectiveness of the substance prescribed, which often leads to a nocebo effect, which is not caused by the substance itself, but more the patient’s mentality towards her or his ability to get well. (source Wiki Psychology)

Doctor-Patient Relationship and Placebo:

ABC TV Australia 26 May 2011 broadcast – This was a most useful and interesting segment and gave a terrific layman’s explanation of this complex area of healing.

The power of vodoo and hex or… in other words placebo (I shall please) and nocebo (I shall harm) is  discussed in these two short videos copied from ABC’s Catalyst website. If you missed the program or even if you watched it; I suggest you take another look. The PET scan images at the end of the video titiled Vodoo –  provide some tangible explanations as to why some people are susceptible to placebo and power of suggestion than others. The outcome of a pain test reveals that subjects who are susceptible to the placebo effect produce significant amounts of opioids and the outcome of reduced pain. In fact these subjects can produce in their brain the equivalent of 10 mg or more of morphine! Others in the experiment for whom placebo did not work (15%) –  experienced a nocebo effect –  a decrease of opioids and therefore increased pain. Select video link below.

PET and MRI brain scans were combined to make these images, illustrating activity in the brain’s mu opioid system. On top, study participants were experiencing pain. On the bottom, they thought they were receiving an injection of painkiller medicine that was actually a placebo. Image Courtesy of University of Michigan

 Why are some people susceptible to Placebo and others not? Continue reading “Grace Gawler Writes About the Placebo Effect in Healing and Cancer Part One”