Most people are familiar with what is known as the placebo effect. Per Wikipedia, a placebo is “a sham or simulated medical intervention. Sometimes patients given a placebo treatment will have a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect.”
Placebos can come in many shapes and sizes and can range from something such as a “lucky charm” to sugar pills that in the past a doctor would give to a hypochondriac. While they have no actual ingredient that should cause a change in condition, some people do experience change — some positive, some negative — upon use of the placebo.
From an article in Wired magazine:
Research has shown that people who unknowingly take placebos — sometimes pills, sometimes injections — often feel relief from pain, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders and high blood pressure. But placebos don’t help people recover from diseases like cancer. “They’re more likely to be effective when there’s a perceptive component to the illness,” Spiegel said.
Some experts say the placebo effect is indeed all in your head, but they aren’t too impressed by the idea.
Is there a problem with believing in a placebo? Perhaps… for example, if you have a serious condition where you forgo authentic treatment that could cure your ills in preference for a placebo. Another example would be if the placebo is prohibitively expensive, particularly if it is marketed to treat a trumped-up condition.
So why do people buy in to such things? Stay tuned for part 2 of this series.