My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the ISPA prove Placebos work without Deception

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the ISPA prove Placebos work without Deception

“It’s the benefit of being immersed in treatment: interacting with a physician or nurse, taking pills, all the rituals and symbols of our healthcare system. The body responds to that.”

Dr. Ted Kaptchuk, study co-author on the Placebo Effect with researchers from researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the ISPA in Lisbon, Portugal

Placebos aren’t cures and they require deception to work. Or so I thought!!

Research done by researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the ISPA (Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada) in Lisbon, Portugal suggests that they still work even when the patient knows they are placebos as reported in the article “The Placebo Effect Works Even When People Know the Pills Are Fake”, published 17 October 2016 by George Dvorsky, Gizmodo.

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Their study, published in the science journal Pain, suggests that the placebo effect can still happen EVEN if the patient is aware they're taking a placebo.


But a step back here.

The placebo, which is latin for “I will please” is where you trick the mind into thinking that a pill or therapy will have an intended effect, despite lack of any scientific proof that it works. It’s even been theorized that there is a genetic link to how well the placebo effect works in some people.


So basically, these scientists, in their study, pleased their patients with a placebo. So how did they do the experiment?

Research into the Placebo Effect - Sugar pills actually work better than Painkillers

The researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the ISPA in Lisbon, Portugal, created two groups out of 100 patients

1.      50 in a control group given pain medicine
2.      50 in an experiment group given a placebo clearly labled “placebo pills”

To make sure the patients knew what was going on, they even went a far as to educate all of them thoroughly on what a placebo was with a 15-minute primer of the placebo effect.

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They then took their pain regiments for the next three (3) weeks and reported back to the researchers.

Surprisingly, the placebo group returned some fascinating results:

1.      30% reduction in usual pain
2.      30% reduction in maximum pain
3.      29% reduction in pain-related disability

The non placebo group, who were given scientifically tested medication, surprisingly, fared worse off:

1.      9% reduction in usual pain
2.      16% reduction in maximum pain
3.      0% reduction in pain-related disability

So what cause this to happen?

Placebo effect debunked - Positive integration with health care system empowered patients

Many theories abound as to how the placebo effect works, but this experiment has shattered one idea; the fact that you have to deceive the persons into thinking the drug will work. Albeit this is a very small study and many demographic variables may be at play here, assuming all was equal, this is astounding and statistically significant.

lead author Claudia Carvalho suggests that the positive interaction with people in the health care system might have empowered them, triggering the body own natural healing, to quote noted lead author Claudia Carvalho: “It’s the benefit of being immersed in treatment: interacting with a physician or nurse, taking pills, all the rituals and symbols of our healthcare system. Our findings demonstrate the placebo effect can be elicited without deception. Patients were interested in what would happen and enjoyed this novel approach to their pain. They felt empowered.” 

This goes to show the power of positive thinking.......or the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is slowly poisoning our immune system’s ability to heal itself. More research is clearly needed, but it does shed new light on the idea of positive thinking and empowerment of athletes during the Rio 2016 Olympics loved wearing all that tape!


As for me, I'm saying positive things to my water, using eucalyptus sweets to stay awake and endure the bad carpet smell of Advantage Call Center. I’m also eating chocolate to empower myself with positive energy so that it will heal me while I work the night shifts at my Call Center.



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