Is it possible to ‘heal’ ourselves purely by thinking we can?
The definition of Placebo effect is: “a beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannon be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment”. So is it possible that some of the medication we take only makes us feel better because we think it will?
Headaches are a popular reason for stressed-out office workers to reach for pain killers – but this maybe down to either being dehydrated, not eating properly or staring at a computer screen all day (whilst having to put up with horrible co-workers). There’s also hundreds of other aliments we use prescription drugs for, often without apreciating the root cause, or the fact there maybe a more natural way to feel better.
Doctors and medical researchers have been using placebo drugs for years, here are a few reasons why:
1. To carry out clinical trials for new drugs
Before new drugs can be released to the public, they need to undergo testing to make sure they work and to understand any potential side-effects. One way of carrying out this research is through clinical trials, using both real and placebo drugs, where some patients are given the real ones and others are given the placebos (often just sugar pills) – then conclusions are drawn from the results. According to Ben Goldacre, in his book Bad Science, many of these conclusions are ‘tweaked’ to benefit the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing them (first to market, revenue, return on investment etc.); indeed every year there are tons of reported cases about the adverse effects of prescription drugs – some well known ones being Michael Jackson and Brittany Murphy.
2. Medication is often not needed to ‘cure’ a lot of aliments… but the thought of it is
Many people who go to their doctor for treatment of ailments, but may have recovered anyway if they hadn’t taken anything because according to Dr. Andrew Weil – a prominent figure in the world of Natural Health and, according to Time Magazine, one of the 100 most influential people in the world – the body can heal itself of many illnesses, naturally! However, if people think they will feel better by taking some pills, they often do, this is the placebo effect. Many doctors know this so subscribe placebos to patients.
In summary, the next time we’re thinking of buying some over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs for common aliments like headaches, soar throat, excess gas, heartburn, cold, bad back, diarrhoea, tiredness, depression, anxiety etc., perhaps we should take a few minutes before handing over money to the drug manufactures, to change our belief system about the likey route cause i.e. eating crap food and not exercising enough – especially if there are many horrible side effects like losing our hair or getting depressed.
Lifestyle changes to enhance our body’s natural ability to heal itself might be a better alternative – no negative side-effects and could help cement our believe in the true power of nature:)
Disclaimer: obviously you should consult medical professionals regarding any concerns with aliments (but that could include these two doctors mentioned above:)