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December 23, 2010

Can Placebo Be Used to Help People Instead of Drugs?

On my way to work On December 23, 2010, I heard a great story on NPR regarding how placebos can potentially be used to help people... EVEN if they know it's a placebo!

Based on research done at Harvard, they found that a placebo helped patients with irritable bowel syndrome 59% of the time compared to a similar group that received nothing. Of greater significance... the treatment group with placebo KNEW they were getting a placebo.

Given that many medications have similar (and even lower) improvement rates, that's quite amazing.

Why does placebo work?

My own personal belief is that this is truly a case of mind over matter.

The human body is literally a pharmaceutical manufacturing company able to naturally produce all sorts of chemical compounds. Pretty much every drug that you can take in pill form, the human body already produces within to some degree. Drugs in essence augments what the body is already able to naturally produce.

The placebo effect is (in my opinion) when the human mind is able to boost the production of the appropriate drugs the body is already able to naturally produce.

The REAL key to improving the human health condition and avoid all the drugs and their potential for side effects is to somehow figure out how to enable the placebo effect on command.

Read the NPR story here.

Reference:
Placebos without Deception: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. PLoS One. 2010
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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