What is the Placebo Effect

The human mind may have a powerful influence on the body, and in some of the cases, it can even help the body to heal. The mind can sometimes even trick you into believing that even a fake treatment has some real therapeutic results. This is a phenomenon which is called the placebo effect. In some cases, the placebos can exert an influence that is powerful enough to mimic the effects of the real medical treatments. However, the placebo effect is more than simply positive thinking. When this response occurs, many people do not have any idea that they are responding to essentially a sugar pill. The placebos are generally utilized in medical research to help the doctors and the scientists discover and understand better the physiological and psychological effects of the new medications. To understand the importance of the placebo effect, it is essential for you to understand more about how and why it works. In this lesson, we will learn about what is a placebo, what is the placebo effect, and look at some placebo effect real-life examples.


Definition of Placebo Effect

The placebo effect is defined as the phenomenon in which people experience the benefit after the administration of an inactive look-alike treatment or substance. This substance, or the placebo, has no medical effect known. Sometimes the placebo is in the form of a pill which is a sugar pill, however, it can also be an injection of the saline solution.

Now, you might be wondering as to why people experience real changes as the result of fake treatments? The expectations of the patient play a significant role here in the placebo effect. The more the person expects the treatment to work on them, the more likely they will exhibit the placebo response.

In most of the cases, the person is not aware that the treatment they are receiving is a placebo actually. Instead, they believe that they are receiving the real treatment. The placebo is designed to exactly seem like the real treatment, irrespective of it being a pill, an injection, or a consumable liquid. However, the substance has no actual effect on the condition that it purports to treat.

It is important for you to note that the placebo and the placebo effect are two different things. The term placebo is the inactive substance itself, whereas the term placebo effect is any kind of effect of taking the medicine which cannot be attributed to the treatment itself that is given.


Placebo Effect Examples

Let us now learn about some placebo examples.

In a study conduct, people were given a placebo treatment and were told that it was a stimulant. Their pulse rate and blood pressure had increased after they took the pill. The same pill was later given to the same set of people and was told that it would help them to get sleep. It had then projected the opposite effects.

Placebo either initiates the release of the natural painkillers that are called endorphins, or they change the whole perception of the pain of the individual.

Studies have also been carried out on the placebo antidepressants for over 12 weeks and they were proved to be effective.

Other than these, the placebo showed a positive effect on Parkinson’s disease, coughs, epilepsy, and erectile dysfunction.


Placebo Effect in Psychology Experiments

In a psychology experiment that is conducted, the placebo refers to an inert treatment or a substance which has no known effects. Researchers might often utilize the placebo control group, which is a kind of group of the participants that are exposed to the placebo or the fake independent variable. The impact of this placebo treatment is later compared to the experimental group results.

Even though the placebos do not contain real treatment, researchers have found out that they can have a wide variety of both the physical and the psychological effects. Participants in the placebo groups have displayed several changes in the heart rate, the blood pressure, the anxiety levels, the pain perception, fatigue, and even the brain activity. These effects point to the role of the brain in health and well-being.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Define Placebo

A Placebo is anything which seems to be the real" medical treatment but is not in actual. It could be in the form of a pill, a shot, or any other type of a fake treatment. The thing that all the placebos have in common is that they do not consist of an active substance that is meant to affect health.

Researchers use the placebos during their studies to help them understand better about what effect the new drug or some other kind of treatment might have on a specific condition.

For instance, some people in the study may be given the new drug to lower the levels of cholesterol. Others would get the placebo. None of these people in the study would know if they got the actual real treatment or the placebo.

Researchers then compare the different effects of the drug and the placebo on these people in the study. This way, they can know about the effectiveness of the new drug and then check for side effects if there are any.

2. Is The Placebo Effect Powerful?

While the placebos can affect how the person feels, studies have suggested that they do not have any significant impact on the underlying illnesses. A major review of more than 150 different clinical trials involving the placebos have found that the placebos did not have any major clinical effects on the illnesses. Instead, the placebo effect showed a small influence on the patient-reported outcomes, particularly of the perceptions of nausea and pain.

However, another review that was conducted about 10 years later found that in the similar populations, both the placebos and the treatments had similar effects. The authors concluded that the placebos when used appropriately, could potentially benefit the patients as part of the therapeutic plan.