Friday, June 09, 2017

Placebo, placebo

Two  links about the placebo effect for you:

*   people act drunker if they think that what they drink should make them drunk, faster.   (It's a study about mixing Red Bull and alcohol.)   I'm pretty sure this type of effect was already pretty well established, but it's still interesting how anticipation of how a drink should affect you does influence how you feel.

Over at Vox, there was a fascinating interview recently with a researcher who says that, for some conditions, giving patients a placebo, even while they know it's a placebo, still helps!:
About five years ago, I said to myself, “I’m really tired about doing research that people say is about deception and tricking people.” 

Let’s just try to see if we can be honest, transparent: Is it possible that [the placebo effect] would work giving a placebo pill and telling people the truth? People said I was nuts. 

The first open-label study we did was in irritable bowel syndrome. 

People on no treatment got about 30 percent better. And people who were given an open-label placebo got 60 percent improvement in the adequate relief of their irritable bowel syndrome.
He admits this makes little sense:

Brian Resnick

What I still can’t wrap my mind around: Okay, the placebo effect is real, and it’s not just about people’s expectations. Fine. But why on earth does the effect still work when you tell patients the drug isn’t real? That it’s just sugar?

Ted Kaptchuk

First of all, I have no idea.

Brian Resnick

That’s actually a refreshing answer.

Ted Kaptchuk

Ultimately, it’s very peculiar. Our patients tell us it’s nuts and crazy. The doctors think it’s nuts. And we just do it. And we’ve been getting good results.
I don’t know if this is going to keep working [in clinical studies]. It’s really novel and new, in infancy. This needs to be replicated. We need to test it over time, too.
One other surprise in the article - I would not have guessed this:
Placebo effects accompany real drugs. Morphine given without a person knowing — surreptitiously, in a IV drip — is 50 percent less effective than when it is given in front of them. That’s the placebo effect. 

And here's a thought, seeing I was recently writing about hallucinogens - to what extent can you reduce LSD or other hallucinogens dose and still talk people into having what they perceived as a full blown trip if they think it is full strength?   Has anyone studied that?

1 comment:

John said...

Some years ago I read that because the placebo effect has been increasing over the decades they have created a task force to investigate the issue. It is very puzzling.