People Using Placebos
Ted Kaptchuk has been revolutionizing how we think of health since he published The Web That Has No Weaver in 1983 where he elegantly laid out much of the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine for Westerners. His work on people using placebos to manage pain, however, has even surprised him.
For those who practice mindfulness exercises, it may not be a surprise that the “placebo effect” can produce beneficial results that outpace those who received no treatment in a clinical study. However, only the most ardent practitioners would have expected a placebo to be on par with approved medication, “men and women taking the placebo also doubled their rates of improvement to a point that was about equal to the effects of two IBS medications”.
There is so much more to learn about holistic human health.
NOTE: Please work with a healthcare provider before trying a placebo approach.
The medical community has been aware of the placebo effect–the phenomenon in which a nontherapeutic treatment (like a sham pill) improves a patient’s physical condition–for centuries. But Ted Kaptchuk, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the leading researchers on the placebo effect, wanted to take his research further. He was tired of letting the people in his studies think they were taking a real therapy and then watching what happened. Instead, he wondered, what if he was honest? His Harvard colleagues told Kaptchuk he was crazy, that letting people in a clinical trial know they were taking a placebo would defeat the purpose. Nevertheless, in 2009 the university’s teaching hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, launched the first open-label placebo, or so-called honest placebo, trial to date….
The findings were surprising. Nearly twice as many people in the trial who knowingly received placebo pills reported experiencing adequate symptom relief, compared with the people who received no treatment. Not only that but the men and women taking the placebo also doubled their rates of improvement to a point that was about equal to the effects of two IBS medications that were commonly used at the time. “I was entirely confused,” says Kaptchuk. “I had hoped it would happen, but it still defies common wisdom.”
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