How Placebos Work

It's amazing that a sugar pill can sometimes "fix" an ailment. Placebos are often prescribed, and sometimes to great therapeutic effect. Sometimes the simple act of believing you're going to get better can actually make you get better. Though the placebo throws a physician's honesty into question, many patients make lasting improvements with its aid.

Recent posts on Placebo

Favorable Trajectories

By Peter D Kramer on May 27, 2016 in In Practice
How distinctive are antidepressants? Answers from research that looks at progress made by individual patients.

Antidepressants Work, But Only For Really Depressed People

By Allen J Frances M.D. on May 07, 2016 in Saving Normal
People who don't really need antidepressant are taking far too many, while those who desperately do need them are not getting nearly enough.

Mindfulness Meditation Provides Pain Relief Without Opioids

Meditation offers a drug-free alternative for coping with pain. A study released today reports that mindfulness meditation triggers pain relief without engaging opioid receptors.

Revisiting the Placebo Effect

What do placebo effects reveal about the mind-body connection? Do our bodies have the capacity to self-heal?

Transhumanism Movement Wants to Eliminate Existential Risk

As a 2016 US Presidential candidate, it amazes me that more attention is not dedicated to overcoming existential risk by the very thing humans are good at: innovating.

Do Vitamins Have Placebo Effects?

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on February 11, 2016 in The Human Beast
After years of hearing that vitamin supplementation was protective of health, we are now hearing that they are a waste of money for people with an adequate diet.

A Novel Trial for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder

The failure of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder to respond to lamotrigine as adolescents and adults...

Saffron for Emotional Health

By Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc on January 10, 2016 in Inner Source
Want a way to spice up your mood? Solid research is suggesting you may want to add saffron on your psychoemotional as well as culinary spice rack.

A Sad Clinical Trial for Depression

One of the most incendiary indictments of clinical psychopharmacology trials in children and adolescents was published in the September 2015 Issue of the well respected British Med

Can Prayer Harm Your Health?

Research from Harvard Medical School yields surprising answers

You Can Learn to Expect Pain, Even Without Experiencing Pain

By Art Markman Ph.D. on December 08, 2015 in Ulterior Motives
One of my kids got allergy shots when he was younger. Each week, we would drive to a clinic, and sit in the waiting room. At first, he expected a lot of pain.

Doctor Prescribes a Reality Check for Homeopathy

By Guy P. Harrison on November 22, 2015 in About Thinking
Homeopathic products are popular these days. What does a doctor say about them?

Stimulant Treatment of Children with ADHD and Tics

For decades a dispute has persisted about whether stimulant medications for ADHD can cause tics. A recent study seems to have resolved the issue.

Listening to Placebo, Especially in the U.S.

By Christopher Lane Ph.D. on October 23, 2015 in Side Effects
Why is the placebo effect intensifying sharply among Americans—and why now?

Generic Drugs Live Down to Expectations

By Linda Wasmer Andrews on October 20, 2015 in Minding the Body
Generic drugs are the omega dogs of the pharmaceutical world. They don’t get much respect, and that could lead to reduced effectiveness and increased side effects.

Your Back or Neck Hurts—What Can You Do?

By Temma Ehrenfeld on September 12, 2015 in Open Gently
When in pain, embrace the placebo that works for you.

A Magical Elixir for the Mind

By Gary L. Wenk Ph. D. on August 09, 2015 in Your Brain on Food
The fact that science has not yet invented a true brain enhancer has not stopped people from selling magical elixirs on the TV and internet.

Mass Suggestion at 40,000 ft.

By Robert Bartholomew Ph.D. on August 06, 2015 in It's Catching
You can literally think yourself sick.

The Quicksand of Self-deception: The Nocebo Effect

The placebo effect is a well-known phenomenon. Less well-known is the nocebo effect, placebo’s “evil twin.” Can physicians cause more harm than good when they give their patients too much information about a potential medication or therapeutic treatment, including those for weight-related disorders? What are the ethical considerations involved in withholding information?

Beyond Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on July 21, 2015 in How To Do Life
CBT needs to move from THE Therapy to being just one tool in the tool box.

Can Using Xanax When Flying Cause PTSD?

“We barely made it. After we landed, they closed the airport. Thank God I had my Xanax to get me through it.” Though life-threatening events happen rarely in aviation, they happen routinely in the Xanax-fueled mind of an anxious flier. Threats to one's life, whether real or imagination-based, can lead to PTSD.

An Epidemic of Questionable Care

By Christopher Lane Ph.D. on May 12, 2015 in Side Effects
When does “low-value care” become no-value care?

Think Twice Before Getting Knee Surgery

Accumulating evidence now proves that much of arthroscopic (keyhole) knee surgery may be unnecessary because the results are no better than placebo. This is an especially startling finding because this is the second most common surgical procedure in the world (after cataract surgery).

Mechanics of the Placebo Effect

A look at how the placebo effect works
© Tadasp | Dreamstime.com

Make Meditation a Habit to Improve Your Life

There is no doubt at all that a regular meditation practice improves health in a number of ways, but the caveat is that the practice must be regular.

Why Choose Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on April 06, 2015 in A Sideways View
Why do so many people turn to CAM when there is often little good disinterested scientific evidence that it works other than a placebo effect?

Precision Medicine’s Cultural Limits

"Everyone is different." This is the fundamental tenant of Precision Medicine: to utilize this difference to improve outcome. Real life is more complicated, and there is a lot that is not yet worked out before this approach will yield benefits.

Epigenetics and Memory

Want to increase your cognitive function? Eating the right foods can boost your brain power.

Extreme Jealousy in Relationships

Jealousy is a social convention just like monogamy.
Henry Mayo Bateman

Your Mother Was Right (Again!)

By Dennis Rosen M.D. on March 08, 2015 in Sleeping Angels
A group of scientists recently confirmed that a widely-used home remedy for treating the common cold is, in fact, quite effective.