The placebo effect is a phenomenon that has been around for decades in the world of medicine. The notion of providing “treatment” for particular ailments in the form of a drug or pill that contains no medicinal ingredients whatsoever has, beyond all reasonable expectations, induced a reaction nearly identical to actual medication; it would appear that the degree to which the mind has control over the body has been vastly underestimated. Indeed, as time goes on there has only been an increase in successful cases involving placebos, as well as a potential increase in terms of how powerful an effect they have. But why is this the case? Vilvet Pharmaceutical has the details of what exactly makes placebos so effective as a legitimate medicinal treatment.
Mind Over Matter
As it turns out, the brain is well-equipped to provide adequate relief for patients all on its own. The expectation of experiencing relief is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, as it can cause the brain to physically induce relief by means of the release of powerful chemicals. Such chemicals, including dopamine and endorphins are the mind’s natural painkillers, and all it takes is the right conditions for them to be released. These chemicals are usually associated with the systems in the brain that reward certain behaviors, and they can have a powerful effect on a patient’s perception, chiefly their sensitivity to pain.
Expectations vs. Reality
In terms of expectations, there are firmly set, deep-rooted societal expectations that have a profound effect on the effectiveness of placebos. Vilvet Pharmaceutical explains that as a society, we associate the act of taking medication itself with getting better, arguably more so than we expect a certain type of medication to be effective over another. All it takes to trick the mind is the act of physically ingesting something, and then the process of relief begins. Whether it’s a pill, a liquid, a shot, or even surgery, all these things can be used as placebos and the positive effects they induce are impossible to ignore.
Additionally, there is also a societal expectation to feel better merely by seeing a doctor, before anything is diagnosed. Almost everyone mentally associates doctors with care and relief, so it’s not too surprising that the mind can jump the gun when it comes to feeling better.
Sometimes, the mind takes a bit more of a push in order to experience relief, but the powerful effects of a placebo take over just the same. The concept of conditioning is nothing new, but only recently have it been discovered just how far it can be taken in the medical world. Studies have been performed involving the provision of legitimate medication to patients for a short period of time, then swapping it out for a placebo such as a sugar pill without them knowing. The result of these experiments has been almost shocking: The body is conditioned to feel better, all on its own, under the delusion that it is still taking real medication. Essentially, medication transforms from a physical pill into a mere idea in the mind, with the same effects.
Going The Extra Mile
One last detail that is vital in the understanding of how placebos work is to focus on the HOW over the WHAT of a placebo. What does this mean? It means that how well or how poorly a patient is administered medication, in addition to how much human involvement and empathy they receive has a strong impact on the brain. Such studies were performed involving placebos administered in 3 different ways: With warm, friendly, empathizing doctors, cold, anti-social and indifferent ones, and with no doctors whatsoever, leaving the patient in isolation.
As you might expect by now, even though the placebo in question was the same in all 3 cases, the effects were not. The first group that received positive human engagement reported feeling significantly better, compared to the middling results of the second group and the little to no change reported by the third. Sometimes expectations and conditioning aren’t enough: It can take a human element to activate the true potential of the placebo, but it can be a powerful effect regardless.
In the end, Vilvet Pharmaceutical acknowledges that we still don’t understand everything about the placebo effect, but it is real and extremely potent. It’s an all-encompassing cure with no side restrictions, side effects, or potential for overdose.