Go to the Source

Michael Torrie torriem at chem.byu.edu
Sat Sep 2 19:31:52 MDT 2006

On Sat, 2006-09-02 at 13:47 -0600, Steve wrote:
> Why does everyone knock the placebo effect, and assume traditional
> medicine is SO much better?

Just to be clear, the placebo effect is, according to my understanding,
only seen if a person has had the medicine before and felt the effect of
the medicine.  So, for example, if someone has taken Tylenol in the past
and it was effective, only then can giving someone a placebo pill (and
claim that it is tylenol) sometimes produce this response in people.  If
a person has no idea (consciously or unconsciously) what effect he or
she is going to feel from a medicine, the placebo effect is never

> I mean seriously has anyone bothered to read the medical literature on
> some of these expensive medications that get approved?
> For an example, I have acid reflux really badly and the first thing
> the doctor did was prescribe a $10 per day pill, that I was going to
> have to take for the rest of my life!

I'm marginally my spam filter hasn't flagged this message, given the
talk of "medications," "$10," "pill", etc. :)


> Ok fine as long as the acid gets better I don't care, $10 is a small
> price to pay.
> The next time I was in the doctors office about 3 months later for a
> checkup, I happened to pick up a journal where this pill had an
> advertisement that included the complete study on it.
> Turns out that it was effective in 5% more people than the placebo was?
> For a 5% chance of feeling better I was paying $10 per day?
> Needless to say I quit the regimine, and found a new doctor, who told
> me to get off my fat ass and start excersizing, eating smaller meals
> more frequently and eat a calcium carbonate tablet in the meantime if
> the acid did kick up.
> I've now been Acid reflux free for over a year, and feel alot better too.
> Here's another "placebo" story.
> When I was younger my mother was diagnosed with epilepsy and put on
> dilatin, and eventually tegratol.  My mother always said "I only get
> these spells when I'm worried about things".
> My dad eventually passed away, and my mother was seizure free for 3
> years, her neurologist stepped her off her anti-seizure medication,
> and for 15 more years she never had a seizure.
> One day a few months ago, my wife and I were visting my mother and she
> (my mother) had another one of these "seizures".  Being a lot older
> and more observant now, I realized that these seizures, did not
> present themselves as typical epileptic seizures.  For instance she
> was mostly conscious, if not really lucid.
> Suspecting that this may be something I learned about in my college
> psych class called a "psuedo seizure", I decided to talk to her in a
> calm and authoritative voice telling her that "this pill will fix ya
> right up".  And handed her an 81mg Aspirin.
> 5 minutes later I told her "Hey it looks like the pill is working" and
> like magic she was lucid again.
> A few days later she started complaining of a headache just like the
> one she had right before the previous seizure.  I explained that the
> brain releases chemicals when under alot of stress and that ALL that
> pill did for her was cleanse her mind of those stress chemicals.  She
> asked for one and I handed it to her.
> She started to shake for a minute, but 5 minutes later she was fine.
> We got my mother in to see a real doctor, as soon as we could.  This
> doctor took a lot of time to rule out an actual medical condition,
> even finding her file from her old doctor and supplimenting it with
> updated versions of the tests that had been run before as well as a
> few others.  He then explained to my mother what a psuedo seizure was,
> and that although she is not faking and is not crazy, that she did
> likely never have epilepsy.
> He said that I was right, that the pill I gave her DID help to clear
> her mind of the stress chemicals, but that she would want to seek
> counseling.
> Her first day with the counseler, the counseler, taught her some
> stress management techniques.  And she is now seizure and essentially
> stress free.
> My point is this, modern medicine seems to rule out the mind body
> connection, and wants to always treat the symptoms manifest in the
> body.  Alternative medicine seems to focus more on things like chi
> points and other strangeness which appear to be bodily manifestations
> of "spiritual" conditions.  I mean seriously, look at what these folks
> are claiming as to HOW it works.
> Eitherway, the Placebo effect appears to be the only one I know of
> that works on the mind body connection, which is the most important,
> IMHO since it's what allows us to "feel" better.  Placebo effects
> appear to be in the same kind of category as Laughter which is
> actually documented to increase the speed of recovery.
> I guess this whole thing could be summed up by simply saying... "Don't
> knock it (placebo) until you've tried it".
> Also don't take this wrong, since yes I do believe modern medicine
> does have it's place, if I break my leg or some other quantifiable
> physical condition then modern medicine really shines.
> Regards,
> On 9/1/06, Shane Hathaway <shane at hathawaymix.org> wrote:
> > Bradley Dorner wrote:
> > > Placebo, If the Md's with their science come back to
> > > me and ask how this happened. You weren't suppose to
> > > get better. Then I say hurray! If this happened once
> > > then I say possibly. If it happened twice then I say
> > > interesting. If this has been happening for 30 years,
> > > which in my case it has. Then throw the word placebo
> > > out the window.
> >
> > I agree.  IMHO the idea that alternative medicine is nothing but a
> > placebo is foolish.  Even if the effect of alternative medicine is
> > purely mental, and the practitioners are doing nothing but encouraging
> > the patients to get better on their own, then alternative medicine could
> > be considered a tactile form of psychiatry.  Chiropractors clearly make
> > people feel better, regardless of whether the main effect is mental or
> > physical, so you can't argue that they provide no valuable service.
> >
> > You can, however, debate whether medical insurance should cover regular
> > chiropractic services.  I'd be interested in that.  Not here though. ;-)
> >
> > Shane
> >
> >
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