Thinking about the placebo effect

If the placebo effect is the result of an expectation in thought, if we took the placebo out of the equation and retained only the thought, would that still help? If the placebo has no intrinsic medicinal value, isn’t the effect from a placebo already the result of the thought connected with it?

A placebo is a non-medicated pill, or sugar pill, often used to set a benchmark in research to determine the effect of a drug. Patients often experience positive therapeutic effects from a placebo and this is thought to be the result of their thought that it will help them. This is called the “placebo effect”.

I’ve read that larger placebos have been found to be more effective than smaller ones and taking two placebos more effective than one. Also, that placebos were more effective when given to a patient by a doctor than when they were self-administered. All of this even though they have no active ingredient.

Further substantiating the placebo effect is a recent UCLA study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that found brain activity corresponding to the placebo effect. Patients with depression receiving placebos exhibited similar brain function changes as those receiving anti-depressant medication.

Perhaps more thought provoking is a 2010 Harvard Medical School study showing that placebos were still found to have an effect even when patients were informed that they were being given a placebo. Isn’t this somewhat akin to taking the placebo out of the equation and knowingly experiencing an effect from the thought alone?

What if, without using a placebo, we could learn to tailor thought to address a specific condition? What if we could learn to empower thought by feeling a connection to the divine? If we could do this, then could we use such thought as an actual form of treatment? And could we expect this to be effective?

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