The Placebo Effect

peter winslow (life coach)I’m Life coach Peter Winslow. In an interesting bit of science news, research studies found in medical journals have reported that there are anti-depressant medications on today’s US market that register no measurable results in clinical trials. It has been accepted that a “placebo effect” is responsible for all the benefits that the retail users of those medications reported to their physicians.

You likely realize that the placebo works only because you believe it will. The placebo effect happens when you think a neutral substance will have a positive effect on you and just because you believe it, it really does.

In modern medicine, there have been studies conducted on the effects of placebos for decades, reporting confirmed cases of the placebo effect in action. One of the more astonishingly invasive studies from 1959 conducted by the National Institute of Health concerned a “mammary artery ligation” procedure used as a cure for angina pain.

The heart surgeon makes an incision in the chest and ties off two arteries, causing an increase in blood flow to the heart. The cardiologist hired for the study performed “sham surgeries” in which 8 out of 17 patients got incisions and stitches, but nothing else. 100% of patients who got the sham surgeries reported being cured.

Such invasive studies are not as common today, but are still being done. In 2002 at the VA Medical Center in Houston, 180 patients with osteoarthritis in their knees were treated with either arthroscopic procedures to remove damaged cartilage or placebo surgery which simulated arthroscopic surgery by making an incision but not removing any cartilage. After two years, and not being told who did and who did not receive the “real” surgery, there were no differences between the placebo and non-placebo groups. Every patient reported improvement in pain and in the ability to use their knees.

Dr. Bruce Moseley, the orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgeries reported: “I was initially very surprised… I could not imagine anybody suggesting that anything we do in surgery would benefit from the placebo effect. I associate placebo effect with pills. In my simple explanation of this outcome, the magnitude of placebo effect is directly proportional to the patient’s perceived intervention.”

In light of this information, you won’t find me volunteering for any surgical clinical studies.

– Peter Winslow

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