The Placebo Effect

This paper is originally from Nexus Magazine. It is all over the net, so I’m assuming it’s okay to use the fair use clause in copyright law and present this here for educational purposes. I found it here.

I think this paper suggests we can to some extent consciously use the placebo effect to our advantage.

The Placebo Effect by Peter Arguriou

A neglected phenomenon

One of the most commonly used terms in medical language is the word placebo. The placebo effect is used as a scale for evaluating the effectiveness of new drugs. But what exactly is the placebo effect and what are its consequences in the deterministic structure of Western medicine?

The placebo effect has been frequently abused by health professionals to denote and stigmatize a fraud or fallacy. Alternative therapies have often been characterized as merely placebos. But the placebo effect is not a fraudulent, useless or malevolent phenomenon. It occurs independently of the intentions of charlatans or health professionals. It is a spontaneous, authentic and very factual phenomenon that refers to well-observed but uninterpreted and contingent therapies or health improvements that occur in the absence of an active chemical/pharmacological substance. Make-believe drugs – drugs that carry no active chemical substances – often act as the real drugs and provoke therapeutic effects when administered to patients.

In many drug trials, the manufacturers of the drug sadly discover that their product is in no way superior to the effect of a placebo. But that does not mean that a placebo equates to a null response of the human organism. On the contrary, a placebo denotes non-chemical stimuli that strongly motivate the organism towards a therapeutic course.

That is, the placebo effect is dependent not on the drug’s effectiveness but solely on therapeutic intention and expectation.

Effects of positive and negative thinking

The placebo effect has been often misunderstood as a solely psychological and highly subjective phenomenon. The patient, convinced of the therapy’s effectiveness, ignores his symptoms or perceives them faintly without any substantial improvement of his health; that is, the patient feels better but is not healthier. But can the subjective psychological aspect of the placebo effect account for all of its therapeutic properties?

The answer is definite:

the placebo effect refers to an alternative curative mechanism that is inherent in the human entity, is motivated by therapeutic intention or belief in the therapeutic potential of a treatment, and implies biochemical responses and reactions to the stimulus of therapeutic intention or belief.

But placebos are not always beneficial: they can also have adverse effects. For example, administering a pharmacologically inactive substance to some patients can sometimes bring about unexpected health deteriorations. A review of 109 double-blind studies estimated that 19 per cent of placebo recipients manifested the nocebo effect: unexpected deteriorations of health.1

In a related experiment, researchers falsely declared to the volunteers that a weak electrical current would pass through their head; although there was no electrical current, 70 per cent of the volunteers (who were medical students) complained of a headache after the experiment.2

In a group of patients suffering from carotid atherosclerosis, prognosis and progression of the disease were burdened when their psychological health was bad (i.e., they were affected by hopelessness or depression). In another group of carotid atherosclerosis patients, prognosis and progression were burdened not only by hopelessness but also by hostility.3 In patients with coronary heart disease, hopelessness was a determinative risk factor.4 Social isolation, work stress and hostility comprised additional risk factors.5

Positive or negative thinking seems to be a decisive risk factor for every treatment, perhaps even more important than medical intervention.

The nocebo effect appears to have a specific biological substrate. A group of 15 men whose wives suffered from terminal cancer participated in a small perspective study. After their wives’ deaths, the men experienced severe grief that caused immuno-depression.

The spouses’ lymphocytes for a period of time after their wives’ deaths responded poorly to mitogenes. Grief had assaulted their immune system. The study proposed that grief and grief-induced immuno-depression resulted in high-level mortality of the specific group.6

A short history of a small miracle

The term placebo (meaning “I shall please”) was used in mediaeval prayer in the context of the phrase Placebo Domino (“I shall please the Lord”) and originated from a biblical translation of the fifth century AD.7 During the 18th century, the term was adopted by medicine and was used to imply preparations of no therapeutic value that were administered to patients as “decoy drugs”.

The term began to transform in 1920 (Graves 8), and through various intermediate stages (Evans and Hoyle, 1933 9; Gold, Kwit and Otto, 1937 10; Jellinek, 194611) was fully transformed in 1955 when it finally claimed an important portion of the therapeutic effect in general. Henry K. Beecher, in his 1955 paper “The Powerful Placebo”, attributed a rough percentage of 30 per cent of the overall therapeutic benefit to the placebo effect.12

In certain later studies, the placebo effect was estimated at even higher, at 60 per cent of the overall therapeutic outcome. In a recent review of 39 studies regarding the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs, psychologist Guy Sapirstein concluded that 50 per cent of the therapeutic benefits came from the placebo effect, with a poor percentage of 27 per cent attributed to drug intervention (fluoxetine, sertaline and paroxetine). Three years later Sapirstein, along with a fellow psychologist Irving Kirsch, processed the data from 19 double-blind studies regarding depression and reached an even higher percentage of therapeutic results attributed to the placebo effect: 75 per cent of depression therapies or ameliorations were placebo induced! 13

Hróbjartsson and Gotzsche (2001 14, 2004 15) doubted the effectiveness of the placebo phenomenon, attributing it solely to the subjective factors of human psychology. And indeed, there is a major aspect of the placebo effect related to psychology. In two studies where placebos were exclusively administered, the placebo effect seemed to be effected from the subject’s perception of the applied therapy, i.e., two placebo pills were better than one, bigger pills were better than smaller, and injections were even better.16

The placebo induced a reaction not only to the therapy but also to its form, suggesting that the placebo phenomenon is shaped according to the personal symbolic universe of the patient. Before the placebo response occurs, human perception has already interpreted the applied therapy and has prepared a certain response to it. It would appear that not only chemical but also non-chemical stimuli participate in the motivation of the human organism towards therapy.

But is the placebo reaction solely a psychological phenomenon or does it have additional tangible somatic effects?

One of the more dramatic events regarding placebo therapy was reported in 1957 when a new wonder drug, Krebiozen, held promise as the final solution to the cancer problem. A patient with metastatic tumors and with fluid collection in his lungs, who demanded the daily intake of oxygen and the use of an oxygen mask, heard of Krebiozen. His doctor was participating in Krebiozen research and the patient begged him to be given the revolutionary drug.

Bent by the patient’s hopelessness, the doctor did so and witnessed a miraculous recovery of the patient. His tumors melted and he returned to an almost normal lifestyle. The recovery didn’t last long. The patient read articles about Krebiozen’s not delivering what it promised in cancer therapy. The patient then had a relapse; his tumors were back. His doctor, deeply affected by the aggravation, resorted to a desperate trick. He told his patient that he had in his possession a new, improved version of Krebiozen. It was simply distilled water.

The patient fully recovered after the placebo treatment and remained functional for two months. The final verdict on Krebiozen, published in the press, proved the drug to be totally ineffective. That was the coup de grace for the patient, who died a few days later.17

In spite of the melodrama of the Krebiozen case, there is no single case or personal testimony that can denote or prove a therapy to be effective. Statistical studies, not personal testimonies, can verify a proposed therapy’s effectiveness, and well-planned studies are able to concur that the placebo phenomenon has somatic properties.

One such study was implemented in 1997. The two study groups consisted of patients with benign prostatic hypertrophy. One group took actual medication while the control group received placebo treatment. The placebo recipients reported relief from their symptoms and even amelioration of their urinary function.18 A placebo has also been reported to act as a bronchodilator in asthmatic patients, or to have the exact opposite action-respiratory depression-depending on the description of the pharmacological effect the researchers gave to the patients and therefore the effect the patients anticipated.19

A placebo proved highly efficient against food allergies and, subsequently, impressively effective in the sinking of biotechnologies on the stock-market. How could that be? Peptide Therapeutics Group, a biotech company, was preparing to launch on the market a novel vaccine for food allergies. The first reports were encouraging. When the experimental vaccine reached the clinical trials stage, the company’s spokesperson boasted that the vaccine proved effective in 75 per cent of the cases-a percentage that usually suffices to prove a drug’s effectiveness. But the good news didn’t last long.

The control group, given a placebo, did almost as well: seven out of 10 patients reported getting rid of their food allergies. The stock value of the company plunged by 33 per cent. The placebo effect on food allergies created a nocebo effect on the stock-market! 20 In another case, a genetically designed heart drug that raised high hopes for Genentech was clobbered by a placebo.21

As aptly put by science historian Anne Harrington, placebos are,

“ghosts that haunt our house of biomedical objectivity and expose the paradoxes and fissures in our own self-created definitions of the real and active factors in treatment”.22

The placebo’s pharmaco-mimetic behavior can even imitate a drug’s side effects. In a 1997 study of patients with benign prostate hypertrophy, some patients on a placebo complained of various side effects ranging from impotence and reduced sexual activity to nausea, diarrhoea and constipation. Another study reported placebo side effects as including headaches, vomiting, nausea and a variety of other symptoms.23

The placebo effect in surgery

But how deep can the placebo effect trespass into the well-defined area of medicine? Surely it can’t joust with medicine’s strike force; it cannot challenge surgery. Or can it?

In 1939, an Italian surgeon named Davide Fieschi invented a new technique for treating angina pectoris (chest pain due to ischaemia or lack of blood/oxygen getting to the heart muscle, usually due to obstruction of the coronary arteries).24 Reasoning that increased blood flow to the heart would reduce his patients’ pain, he performed tiny incisions in their chests and tied knots on the two internal mammary arteries. Three quarters of the patients showed improvement; one quarter of them was cured. The surgical intervention became standard procedure for the treatment of angina for the next 20 years.

But in 1959, a young cardiologist, Leonard Cobb, put the Fieschi procedure to the test. He operated on 17 patients: on eight of them he followed the standard procedure; on the other nine he performed only the tiny incisions, letting the patients believe that they’d had the real thing. The result was a real upset: those who’d had the sham surgery did as well as those who’d had the Fieschi technique.25 That was the end of the Fieschi technique and the beginning of the documented surgical placebo effect.

In 1994, surgeon J. Bruce Moseley experimented with the surgical placebo. He split a small group of patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee into two equal groups. Both groups were told that they would undergo arthroscopic surgery, but only the first group got the real thing. The other group was left virtually untreated, with the doctor performing only tiny incisions to make the arthroscopic scenario credible. Similar results were reported in both groups.26

Moseley, stunned by the outcome, decided to perform the trial with a larger statistical sample in order to reach safer conclusions. The results were replicated: arthroscopic surgery was equal therapeutically to the placebo effect.27 The placebo had found its way into surgical rooms.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of surgical placebo arose in a groundbreaking 2004 study. In the innovative field of stem-cell research, a new approach was taken with Parkinson’s disease. Human embryonic dopamine neurons were implanted through tiny holes in the patients’ brains. Once again, the results were encouraging. And once again, the procedure failed to do better than a placebo. In this case, the placebo involved tiny holes incised in the skull without implantation of stem cells.

As the researchers confessed,

“The placebo effect was very strong in this study”.28

But how can it be that the therapeutic expectancy alone often produces results equal to those from actual surgery?

It appears that the mind is exerting control over somatic processes, including diseases. The biochemical traces of this influence are only beginning to be outlined. Modern research indicates a biological, tangible substrate to the placebo effect.

Somatic pathways

In the mid-1990s, researcher Fabrizio Benedetti conducted a novel experiment whereby he induced ischaemic pain and soothed it by administering morphine. When morphine was replaced by a saline solution, the placebo presented analgesic properties. However, when naloxone (an opiate antagonist) was added to the saline solution, the analgesic properties of the water were blocked. Benedetti reached the conclusion that the placebo’s analgesic properties were a result of specific biochemical paths. Naloxone blocked not only morphine but also endogenous opioids-the physical pain-relievers.29

The endogenous opioids, endorphins, were discovered in 1974 and act as pain antagonists. Benedetti’s suggestion of a placebo-induced release of endorphins was supported by findings produced with MRI and PET scans.30 Placebo-induced endorphin release also affects heart rate and respiratory activity.31

As researcher Jon-Kar Zubieta described,

“…this [finding] deals another serious blow to the idea that the placebo effect is a purely psychological, not physical, phenomenon”.32

Further findings support the notion that the placebo effect presents a biochemical substrate in both depression and Parkinson’s disease. Analyzing the results of PET scans, researchers estimated the glucose metabolism in the brains of patients with depression. Glucose metabolism under placebo presented differentiations that were similar to those caused by antidepressants such as fluoxetine.33

In patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a placebo injection promoted dopamine secretion in a similar way to that caused by amphetamine administration.34 Benedetti demonstrated that the placebo effect provoked decreased activity in single neurons of the subthalamic nucleus in patients with Parkinson’s disease.35

From numerous research findings, it is logical and rather safe to conclude that there is a biochemical substrate to the placebo effect. But what is more intriguing to it is its relation to perception. It would appear that perception and the codes and symbols that the animate computer, the brain, utilizes in order to process internal and external information strongly determine the potency and form of placebo response.

In a recent study, patients were purposely misinformed that they had been infected by hazardous bacilli and they subsequently underwent treatment. However, there were no bacilli and the treatment administered was a placebo.

Guess what? Some of the study subjects developed infection-like conditions that were not treatable by the placebo medication.36 The mind interpreted the fictional bacilli as hazardous and instructed the body to respond to them as if they were real.

Despite the placebo’s potency and its importance for a new perception of health where body and mind heavily interact, large numbers of scientists continue to regard the placebo as an insignificant systematic error, a troublesome nought.

According to cancer researcher Gershom Zajicek:

“There is nothing in the pharmacokinetic theory which accounts for the placebo effect. In order to keep the theory consistent, the placebo effect is regarded as random error or noise which can be ignored.” 37

One of the most perceptive placebo researchers was Stewart Wolf, “the father of psychosomatic medicine”, who as early as 1949 had given it a thorough description. Wolf not only defended the placebo as a non-fictional and very “real” phenomenon but also described the placebo’s pharmacomimetic behavior. He was perhaps the first researcher to correlate the placebo effect not only with psychology and predisposition but also with perception.

More than half a century ago, he stated that,

“the mechanisms of the body are capable of reacting not only to direct physical and chemical stimulation but also to symbolic stimuli, words and events which have somehow acquired special meaning for the individual”.38

In this context, a pill is not merely an active substance but also a therapeutic symbol and thus the organism is able to respond not only to its chemical content but also to its symbolic content. Likewise a bacillus, beyond its physical properties, acquires symbolic properties that can cause an organism’s reaction even in the absence of the bacillus.

The presence and extent of the nocebo effect should also be studied in regard to drug resistance. Perhaps drug resistance is a multifactorial phenomenon involving not only microbial evolutionary aptness but also human psyche mechanics. Placebo and nocebo phenomena might prove fundamental not only on the personal level but also in the public health arena.

They might even provide the foundation stone for a new model of health, a new medicine that was envisioned by Wolf in the 1950s:

“…in the future, drugs will be assessed not only with reference to their pharmacologic action but also to the other forces at play and to the circumstances surrounding their administration”.39

Five centuries ago, Swiss alchemist and physician Paracelsus (1493-1541) wrote:

“You must know that the will is a powerful adjuvant of medicine.”

It seems that our scientific arrogance has blinded us to the teachings of the past.


1. Rosenweig P, Brohier S, Zipfel A, “The placebo effect in healthy volunteers: influence of the experimental conditions on the adverse events profile during phase I studies”, Clin Pharmacol Ther 1993; 54:578-83.
2. Schweiger A, Parducci A, Pav J, “Nocebo: the psychologic induction of pain”, Biol Sci 1981; 16:140-3.
3. Everson SA, Kaplan GA, Goldberg DE, Salonen R, Jukka T, “Hopelessness and 4-year progression of carotid atherosclerosis: the Kuopio ischemic heart disease risk factor study”, Arterioscler Thromb Biol 1997; 17:1490-5.
4. Glassman AH, Shapiro A, “Depression and the course of coronary artery disease”, Am J Psychiatry 1998; 155:4-11;
Smith TW, Ruiz JM, “Psychosocial influences on the development and course of coronary heart disease: current status and implications for research and practice”, J Consult Clin Psychol 2002 Jun; 73(3):459-62.
5. Pollit RA, Daniel M, Kaufman JS, Lynch JW, Salonen GT, Kaplan GA, “Mediation and modification of the association between hopelessness, hostility and progression of carotid atherosclerosis”, J Behav Med 2005 Feb; 28(1):53-64.
6. Schliefer SJ, Keller SE, Camerino M,Thornton JC, Stein M, “Suppression of lymphocyte stimulation following bereavement”, J Am Med Assoc (JAMA) 1983; 250:374-7.
7. “Past and present of ‘what will please the lord’: an updated history of the concept of placebo”, Minerva Med 2005 Apr; 96(2):121-4.
8. Graves TC, “Commentary on a Case of Hystero-Epilepsy with Delayed Puberty: Treated with Testicular Extract”, The Lancet 1920 Dec 4; 196(5075).
9. Evans W and Hoyle C, “The Comparative Value of Drugs Used in the Continuous Treatment of Angina Pectoris”, Quarterly Journal of Medicine 1933 Jul; 2(7).
10. Gold H, Kwit NT, Otto H, “The xanthines (Theobromine and Aminophylline) in the treatment of cardiac pain”, JAMA 1937 Jun 26; 108(26):2173-79.
11. Jellinek EM, “Clinical Tests on Comparative Effectiveness of Analgesic Drugs”, Biometrics Bulletin 1946 Oct; 2(5):87-91.
12. Beecher HK, “The powerful placebo”, JAMA 1955 Dec 24; 159(17):1602-6.
13. Kirsch, Irving and Sapirstein, Guy, “Listening to Prozac but hearing placebo: A meta-analysis of antidepressant medication”, Prevention & Treatment 1998 Jun; 1(1).
14. Hróbjartsson A, Gotzsche PC, “Is the Placebo Powerless? An Analysis of Clinical Trials Comparing Placebo with No Treatment”, New England J Med (NEJM) 2001 May 24; 344(21):1594-602.
15. Hróbjartsson A, Gotzsche PC, “Is the placebo powerless? Update of a systematic review with 52 new randomized trials comparing placebo with no treatment”, J Intern Med 2004 Aug; 256(2):91-100.
16. Blackwell B, Bloomfield SS, Buncher C, “Demonstration to medical students of placebo responses and non-drug factors”, The Lancet 1972; 13:1-11; Buckalew LW, Coffield KE, “An investigation of drug expectancy as a function of capsule colour and size and preparation form”, J Clin Psychopharmacol 1982; 2:245-8.
17. Klopfer, Bruno, “Psychological variables in human cancer”, Journal of Projective Techniques and Personality Assessment 1957; 21:331-34.
18. “Placebo Effect Can Last For Years”, The New York Times, April 16, 1997.
19. Benedetti F, Amanzio M, Baldi S, Casadio C, Cavallo A, Mancuso M, Ruffini E, Oliaro A, Maggi G, “The specific effects of prior opioid exposure on placebo analgesia and placebo respiratory depression”, Pain 1998 Apr; 75(2-3):313-9.
20. “Placebo effect shocks allergy drugs maker”, BBC News, July 5, 1999.
21. Talbot, Margaret, “The Placebo Prescription”, The New York Times, January 9, 2000.
22. Harrington, Anne (ed.), The Placebo Effect: An Interdisciplinary Exploration, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1997.
23. Hahn RA, “The Nocebo Phenomenon: The Concept, Evidence, and Implications for Public Health”, Preventive Medicine 1997 Sep-Oct; 26(5):607-11; Spiegel H, “Nocebo: The Power of Suggestibility”, Preventive Medicine 1997 Sep-Oct; 26(5):616-21; Barsky AJ et al., “Nonspecific Medication Side Effects and the Nocebo Phenomenon”, JAMA 2002 Feb; 287(5):622-27;
24. Fieschi D, “Criteri anatomo-fisiologici per intervento chirurgico lieve in malati di infarto e cuore di angina”, Arch Ital Chir 1942; 63: 305-10.
25. Cobb LA, Thomas GI, Dillard DH, Merendino KA, Bruce RA, “An evaluation of internal-mammary-artery ligation by a double-blind technic”, NEJM 1959 May 28; 260(22):1115-18.
26. Moseley JB, O’Malley K, Petersen NJ, Menke TJ, Brody BA, Kuykendall DH, Hollingsworth JC, Ashton CM, Wray NP, “A controlled trial of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee”, NEJM 2002 Jul 11; 347(2):81-8.
27. Moseley JB Jr, Wray NP, Kuykendall D, Willis K, Landon G, “Arthroscopic treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Results of a pilot study”, Am J Sports Med 1996 Jan-Feb; 24(1):28-34.
28. McRae C, Cherin E, Yamazaki TG, Diem G, Vo AH, Russell D, Ellgring JH, Fahn S, Greene P, Dillon S, Winfield H, Bjugstad KB, Freed CR, “Effects of perceived treatment on quality of life and medical outcomes in a double-blind placebo surgery trial”, Arch Gen Psychiatry 2004 Apr; 61(4):412-20; Erratum in Arch Gen Psychiatry 2004 Jun; 61(6):627.
29. Benedetti F, “The opposite effects of the opiate antagonist naloxone and the cholecystokinin antagonist proglumide on placebo analgesia”, Pain 1996 Mar; 64(3):535-43.
30. Wager TD, Rilling J K, Smith EE, Sokolik A, Casey KL, Davidson RJ, Kosslyn SM, Rose RM, Cohen JD, “Placebo-induced changes in fMRI in the anticipation and experience of pain”, Science 2004 Feb 20; 303(5661):1162-7;
Lieberman MD, Jarcho JM, Berman S, Naliboff BD, Suyenobu BY, Mandelkern M, Mayer EA, “The neural correlates of placebo effects: a disruption account”, NeuroImage 2004 May; 22(1):447-55.
31. Pollo A, Vighetti S, Rainero I, Benedetti F, “Placebo analgesia and the heart”, Pain 2003 Mar; 102(1-2):125-33;
Benedetti F, Amanzio M, Baldi S, Casadio C, Cavallo A, Mancuso M, Ruffini E, Oliaro A, Maggi G, “The specific effects of prior opioid exposure on placebo analgesia and placebo respiratory depression”, Pain 1998 Apr; 75(2-3):313-19.
32. Gavin, Kara, “Thinking the pain away? UM brain-scan study shows the body’s own painkillers may cause the ‘placebo effect'”, University of Michigan press release, August 23, 2005.
33. Mayberg HS, Silva JA, Brannan SK, Tekell JL, Mahurin RK, McGinnis S, Jerabek PA, “The functional neuroanatomy of the placebo effect”, Am J Psychiatry 2002 May; 159(5):728-37.
34. De la Fuente-Fernandez R, Phillips AG, Zamburlini M, Sossi V, Calne DB, Ruth TJ, Stoessl AJ, “Dopamine release in human ventral striatum and expectation of reward”, Behav Brain Res 2002 Nov 15; 136(2):359-63.
35. Benedetti F, Colloca L, Torre E, Lanotte M, Melcarne A, Pesare M, Bergamasco B, Lopiano L, “Placebo-responsive Parkinson patients show decreased activity in single neurons of subthalamic nucleus”, Nat Neurosci 2004 Jun; 7(6):587-8; epub May 16, 2004.
36. Lynoe N, “Placebo is not always effective against nocebo bacilli. The body-mind interplay still wrapped in mystery”, Lakartidningen 2005 Sep 19-25; 102(38):2627-8.
37. Zajicek G, “The placebo effect is the healing force of nature”, The Cancer Journal 1995 Mar-Apr; 8(2).
38. Wolf S, “Effects of Suggestion and Conditioning on the Action of Chemical Agents in Human Subjects: The Pharmacology of Placebos”, Journal of Clinical Investigation 1950 Jan; 29(1):100-09.
39. ibid.

10 thoughts on “The Placebo Effect

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  1. It would be easy to allow myself to feel justified that I was right, and vindicated too about the whole thing, but it brings bitterness to my heart. This situation sure has brought upon a new appreciation for my life and my family. A part of me wants to be bitter about the way docs treated me, but there’s a bigger part of me that is looking forward every day. What a joy to have so much of my life returned to me. Yoga tremendously helps the arthritis pain, meditation helps the mind, prayer helps my soul. I am working on diet which will also help. Now,….the hard part,….. to “keep on keepin on” this journey.

    This “Placebo Effect” article helped bring some levity and light to my life’s recent past path and made my outlook on life brighter, despite its serious nature. I am going to share this article with a few professionals.

    Beats me how docs could say that my pain and discomfort was “psychological” (placebo) and at the same time my NOT having pain and discomfort is also “psychological” (placebo). Silly, Silly, Silly.

    Peace to You. Rest and rejuvination to you, and joy.

  2. Berta,
    wow, thanks for that wonderful heartening story…but my god, I’m so sorry you had to go through all that!!

    I’ve written a depressing post that will post at midnight, but hopefully it is as it was for you and once I’m off the rest of this crap I’ll feel better…because I’ve been feeling really really bad too…

    peace to you.

  3. Well, I am one other person who found this article very intriguing. My story here sounds like a “Downeaster’s Tale” Longsuffering, with a punch line at the end.
    Maybe what the irish call dark comedy.

    I have recently come off of 350mg. Lamictal, prescribed for bi-polar over the last three years. Two weeks after taking this med, I developed a dyskinsia, (involuntary mouth movements?)which was promptly ignored by clinician, I started gaining weight, numbness in shins and ankles developed, (went thru diabetes testing and torturous needle prodding). Chronic mouth sores, (biopsi taken), chronic muscle pain, and fatigue (Doc called it fibromyalgia) Arthritis pain in feet, (Left and right joint replacements in big toes). Knee pain and hip pain, (began carrying a cane), MRI taken shows moderate arthritis in all lumbar disks but I had intolerable, unbearable pain. (cortizone shots and more and more pain pills, but with no pain relief. I have always been athletic.) Eventually became house bound walking with a walker. Severe acne covering face and neck, (I’m 54, never,ever had a skin problem).

    All these difficulties in just 3 yrs, since I began Lamictal!!

    My complaints fell on deaf ears when I suggested the Lamictal was causing these difficulties. (especially the exagerated pain which I knew there was no reason for). And one day, after struggling to stand up from the toilet, and struggling to pull up my own jeans, I hobbled to the bathroom sink, and realized that I was very seriously suicidal. I hated the way I moved, I hated the way I looked, (I didn’t even recognize my own face in the mirror’s reflection). I hated what I had become. I hated everything about me, and although I wanted to die right there, another part of me knew that I had to hold on to life for the sake of my 12 year old daughter. So, I started withdrawal from LAMICTAL, what I thought was causing my problems DESPITE my many doctors advising me that my problems were NOT lamictal caused. Two weeks into beginning withdrawal on my own, I called the doc to let her know I what I was doing. By the time I got to her scheduled appt. I only had 25 mg. to go to be free of Lamictal. She was shocked to see me walking, standing erect, without my cane, and with no difficulty. I told her I was free of most of the pain, I had no more mouth sores, no dyskinsia, no muscle aches or fatique, leg pain and numbness were gone, Acne was finally being affected by the meds from the skin doc, I felt calmer and more relaxed than ever, and I was walking a half a mile a day and able to do my housekeeping and other life tasks pain free. (Yes, my muscles have turned to jello over these 3 yrs and need strengthening, but I’ll get to that soon enough.) You know what she said………………………….

    DOC: “Well, I’ll schedule you an appointment in Sept. for follow-up to see what “our” other medication options are for bi-polar, as your symptoms may just be a PLACEBO – EFFECT.”

    LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL Every time I recall her words, I laugh.

    I said, “Well, thanks anyway doc, but I think I’ll stick with the placebo effects, I need a break from the medication side effects. I’ll see you in October, to withdraw from the Trazadone.

    She’s just not ready to admit that her way was not right for me. I’ll find a new doc soon.

    Thankfully, I have a wonderful psychologist. She is now rethinking medication therapies after following right with me down this path. But, she has also encouraged me to seek other forms of self-healing as well.

    I now walk a mile a day, and even my medicated stoid self is gone. This I hadn’t realized I’d developed until loving emotions returned. Yes, I still have my everyday bi-p difficulties. Oh well, I have less difficulties than when on meds. Will use other methods of healing.

    Your blog has been such an incredible encouragement for me and I value your writing’s. I hope you are getting better too. I also found the “Story of Recovery” very valuable as well.

    Thank you so much for sharing.


  4. no…not taking anything personally….but people were NOT interested in this’s post has already got more than twice the hits that this one has and this one has been up an extra 24 hours….

    no cute fixes for a while…

  5. Gianna,

    With the economy going up and down, and the Jewish Holidays starting, it seems that everyone’s stats are way down.

    Don’t take it personally.

    I found it (this article) fascinating.

    Of course, one sure fire way to boost stats is a cute fix.

  6. That’s interesting that few people are reading the article. It seems that people often will not read something that reaaly proves a point. I used to think that to convince someone of something I needed a lot of evidence, but that is not the case. We like short, easy to read summaries.

    I have read a great deal about the placebo effect. This article was as good or better than anything out there. In fact, this site contains a gold mine of good articles.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jim S

  7. I’ve always thought of my mind as something that, well, maybe not had the size, but the power of a walnut. And I guess, it has. But then there’s the unconscious, that you maybe need a little psychosis – or an enlightenment – to become aware of. Oh boy. It’s actually almighty… Only someone who never has experienced that can doubt the placebo effect.

  8. thanks Matt, for the comments…I’m too damned tired to write anything…

    but yeah, those are all good questions…

    Most people aren’t bothering to read the article…(I can tell by my stats—) Too bad because I think it’s damn interesting and brings up all sorts of questions and cool things to think about.

  9. That’s interesting. This suggests, then, that placebo/nocebo are misnomers, and that there is something else at play, here, which is neither therapeutic, nor anti-therapeutic.

    Was the word “suggestion” used? There was something about “expectation,” I think. But if someone is in a state of hopelessness, how does one cause them to “expect,” something good to happen? *Can* one cause such a thing to happen? Well, of course, one *can*, because it happens every day, but does anybody understand the mechanism by which this takes place? Could somebody understand and reproduce that mechanism, and cause somebody to feel hopeful, chipper, full of expectation of good things to come, and whatnot, at will?

    Talking therapies seem to suggest that this is possible – some people have a skill with language, which is not innate, because everything is learnt. But how did they learn it?

    So many questions, and so few answers!


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