Hopper: Separating genuine cures from the placebo effect

But doesn’t it make sense that we should be researching how the placebo effect works?

In order to measure the effectiveness of a new drug, pharmaceutical companies are required to test the medication in a double blind placebo trial.

This means that the drug is compared to a substance that is inert (the placebo).

Instead of giving people the medication in question, they give them sugar pills in place of the medication.  None of the people in the study know if they are given the real drug or the placebo.

Again, this is in an effort to measure the effectiveness of the medication being tested.

However, a strange phenomenon takes place —even the people who are given the “placebo” improve.

The medical industry tends to downplay placebo results. After all, they have a lot at stake.

But doesn’t it make sense that we should be researching how the placebo effect works?

To that end, there is some research that sheds light on this mysterious effect.

Research to date on the placebo effect has focused on the relationship between the mind and body.

One of the most common theories is that the placebo effect is due to a person’s expectations.

If a person expects a pill to do something, then it’s possible that their body’s own healing mechanisms can cause changes similar to what a medication might do.

In other words, changing your thought processes and your emotional state can activate healing in your body.

There are actual physical changes that occur, so this isn’t “in the head” or merely positive thinking.

For instance, some studies have documented an increase in the body’s production of endorphins, one of the body’s natural pain relievers.

In fact, the placebo effect is sometimes as effective as the drug being tested. This is often the case with mild to moderate depression and anti-depressant medications.

Dr. Irving Kirsch, associate director of the Placebo Studies Program at Harvard Medical School, challenges the very effectiveness of antidepressants.

Dr. Kirsch’s research suggests the difference between the effect of a placebo and the effect of an antidepressant is minimal for most people.

The results are not simply in your head or imaginary because it causes a physical change in the body, like lowering blood pressure and heart rate and can also causes changes in the brain that can be measured through neuro-imaging.

When we alter our expectations to something more constructive and positive, we will naturally shift our focus of attention and our emotional state.

This ability to shift our thoughts and emotional state has a profound effect on the body’s physiology and our ability to fight disease as well as heal from illness.

This also has a profound affect on brain function.

In fact, a new science based on epigenetics “control above the genes” suggests the ability to change our thoughts and emotional state can also change our genetics.

Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of the Biology of Belief, explains that our genes respond to both our external and our internal environment.

Engaging in more positive thoughts and emotional states changes the body’s physiology and chemistry that alters our internal environment.

This has a direct affect on the trillions of cells in our body and the expression of genes.

What this research suggests is that we have more power to influence our health than we thought.

That being said, changing our internal chemistry takes practice, patience and time.

Truly, the ability to heal resides in each and every one of us as we connect to the physician within.