The Placebo and Nocebo Effect
What is the placebo effect?
- Self-limiting disorders – good examples of these are the cold and flu. These disorders resolve by themselves at the end of the day. They do not necessarily need any medication or treatment. Either you can give a placebo or essential medicines. Those infections will resolve.
- Remission disorders – excellent examples of these are lupus and RA. To name a couple of remission disorders. It means they tend to come and go with or without treatment. The treatment goals usually prolong remission for as long as possible. This means you are symptom-free between occurrences.
- Changes in a person’s behavior – a patient improves their diet or increases exercise. This change of behavior was based on the medication or placebo. The treatment did not bring out any specific effect but changed the person’s action.
- Altered perception – this is assigning treatment may change the person’s outlook. For example, a pain that they would describe as sharp may not turn into an uncomfortable itch or shocking sensation.
Effects on the Brain
Decreased anxiety – this happens when an individual experiences anxiety. It worsens specific symptoms or even causes an exacerbation. Giving a placebo or treating the anxiety may solve the person’s issue. This is because stress plays a significant role in the human body.
Altered brain state – studies show that a brain can respond to visualized situations. Walking through an imagined scenario may cause the person to have positive outcomes. Sometimes you can train the brain to get rid of specific fears, pains, and anxieties.
Research on Placebos
The researchers noted that the placebo effect wasn’t as strong in Europe. The hypothesis is that it was due to direct-to-consumer drug advertising. All those informercials you see on TV may have a subconscious effect on us and they are not legal in Europe.
Half of the participants received an “active” oral placebo. The other half got an inactive placebo. The active had so-called fast-acting antidepressant-like effects and the inactive.
After one week the participants then switched to the other. PET exams were then done to check the activation of mu-opioid receptor activity.
Two weeks later, the participants were then put on actual SSRIs.
The Placebo Effects on Antidepressant Treatments
Researchers looked at whether Open-Label Placebos, OLP, had any effect on patients’ responses.
OPLs are treatments that the patient know is a placebo, so it has no deception. They looked at how OLPs compared to no treatment.
They looked at the effectiveness of placebos on back pain, RA, and cancer-related fatigue. It was also used in IBS, ADHD, allergies, MDD, and hot flashes.
The Nocebo Effect
The nocebo effect is the opposite of the placebo effect. It hasn’t been studied as much as the placebo effect, even though the placebo effect is still in its infancy phase.
The nocebo effect is similar to the placebo effect because it is not an actual treatment. The main difference is that the nocebo effect can lead to unwanted symptoms and complications.
Adverse reactions to certain medications, treatments, or even placebos can happen based on the patient’s thinking. Media frenzies can influence the nocebo effect. It is the thought of a potential adverse reaction that causes the negative reaction to happen.
An increase in stress or anxiety can cause this. It is more prone in people with anxiety, depression, and even a pessimistic outlook on life or their situation.
Dr. Joe Dispenza
Dr. Dispenza on Placebo and Nocebo Effects
“Think about the idea of giving somebody a sugar pill, saline solution, or a false surgery. A certain percentage of those people will accept, believe and surrender—without analysis—to the “thought” that they are receiving the real substance or treatment. As a result, they’ll program their autonomic nervous systems to manufacture the same pharmacy of drugs to match the real substance or treatment. They can make their antidepressants and painkilling medicines. Healing is not something that takes place outside of you.”
Want to know more about the placebo effect? Watch the full Episode 70 here 👇