Sugar Pill

I started to post something about this on a Facebook friend’s status. Really, I did not want to add negativity to this person who is frustrated.

The status update:

It’s a sad day when <medication_name> does absolutely nothing to <medication_effect>. Nothing, zip, zilch! Might as well be a sugar pill.

See a sugar pill is a a pharmacologically inert pill. Any treatment without a substance to affect health is a placebo. Placebos are powerful. If we believe in them, then they work. And work really well. Part of why good medication studies require double-blind testing is if the patient in any way picks up whether the medication is or is not real affects the power of the Placebo Effect. And the changes patients experience are completely real as those told the sugar pill is a stimulant experience a higher heart rate and blood pressure. In some cases the size of the placebo effect is greater than the size of the medication effect beyond the placebo.

Personally, I would love to see placebos used as initial treatments to disease. Names could be invented and called generics. Pharmacists or their close family members would be screwed (they would either know or through micro-expressions leak it’s not real).

Placebo operations are interesting to me. Cut someone open and suture it closed without actually doing the operation? And amazingly some people are significantly improved.


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