Placebo and its effect on the mind Placebo and its effect on the mind

Placebo and its effect on the mind

Trends 1 April, 2019 Ana María López de Mesa


Under medical supervision this type of treatment may have multiple impacts on health.

Advisor Jaime Adams Dueñas
Psychiatrist ascribed to Coomeva Prepaid Medicine

Probably the expression having the greatest placebo effect is “Put your faith into it, that will make you well!” Many people have been exposed to that phrase and one could say it is not bad at all because, beyond alleviation or cure with chemical compounds, thinking plays a very important part in the recovery of most human pathologies. What is the reason for this? Jaime Alberto Adams Dueñas, Psychiatrist, explains that every disease has an important psychological by-product. “Even if the ‘treatment’ with placebo is a temporary measure, in urgent cases or critical ones it may be used for all pathologies in general, albeit prudently and always under medical supervision.”

Nevertheless, talking about the placebo effect does not allude to a single result only but rather implies a series of effects produced on health with ends to alleviating or diminishing pain. Science has not explained exactly how the organism behaves.

Psychiatrist Dueñas indicates that its origin goes far back in time and at the beginning even religious features were attributed to it. In medicine this attribution was done empirically. “Placebo medicines are inert substances, in other words, they do not harm the organism and therefore do not have side effects or produce alterations. On the contrary, they generate wellbeing.”

In this way, when a specialist administers them in a controlled manner, the patient activates a region of his brain generating a positive response. “It is a kind of stimulus similar to the one anti-depressants provide, on a neurobiological level,” he explains.

This type of medicines can come in presentations such as pills, syrups or ampoules and are activated through the doctor- patient relation. On this last relation, Damien G. Finniss an associated professor of the University of Sidney in Australia indicates that such interaction, along with the desire to recover is very powerful in improving one’s health. At the same time, he warns that this effect is related to the substances the body itself produces and that alleviate pain. That is why the sole fact of thinking that taking medication will help in the recovery makes the brain reacts automatically as if it were already being alleviated. In this line of thinking there exists the nocebo effect. Contrary to the placebo effect it is characterized by the fact that people arrive with negative ideas about the effects of a given therapy or medication. This may contribute to worsening the perception in the course of the person’s recovery and even on his cure.

Do not abuse!

But, how can thinking change the brain’s perceptions? Science has still found it difficult to explain. Nevertheless, the British journal The Lancet acknowledges that the placebo effect is more powerful that previously thought.

Even though this deals with substances that do not pose risks to health, placebo medication could be dangerous when taken in excess and may end in intoxication. That is why Adams recommends that the patient be informed of such characteristics of this medication.

Doctor Carlos Celedón agrees with this. In his paper “Criteria for the Use of Placebo: Ethical Aspects” he points out that it is possible to consider the use of a placebo “when there is no established treatment for a given disease or otherwise when the current therapy has had too many undesirable effects and one needs to propose a new therapy whose benefits one must explore. There should not be any ethical problems in the use of placebo in any circumstance, given one explains clearly to the person that it is about the use of a placebo and that the person authorize and sign the informed consent.”

It is probable that years must elapse before science finds a solid scientific support to explain what happens in this relation between body-mind. In the meantime let it suffice to know that placebo medication has positive effects in the face of pain albeit in specific circumstances. The emphasis is on the fact that placebo must be taken under supervision and specialized accompaniment to avoid adverse situations.’

The placebo effect occurs when there is a change in the symptoms of the patient receiving this type of treatment. In general, the result is positive even though it may not last long.