LDN TALKS AT NIGHT: Can Placebos actually work?
Thursday 22nd June 2017
Jeremy Howick is a world leading Oxford researcher in placebo effects, and the science and power of positive thinking for health and wellbeing...
"Modern medicine as a whole has some unintended and harmful consequences. We are using too much of it, it is bankrupting us, and we have forgotten how amazing our own bodies are at healing without medicine. All the unnecessary treatment, expense and harm, it is tempting to reject modern medicine altogether, and that’s just what some people do.
One way people reject modern medicine is by becoming too trusting of alternatives. It is true that alternative practitioners are also often much better at exploiting placebo effects, and the benefits of mind/body self-healing much more effectively than conventional medicine. But it’s not true that all alternative treatments benefit people, and there is rarely proof that they work better than conventional options.
Also, the alternative medicine industry is just that: an industry. As such they fall prey to the same conflict of interest problems as pharmaceutical companies, albeit on a much smaller scale because there is less money in it. Finally, many alternative healers often ask patients to accept a spiritual worldview that many find hard to swallow.
The good news is that a middle way has emerged that neither rejects all pharmaceutical drugs nor accepts all unacceptable alternatives. I’ve done some of the major systematic reviews in this area and here is a summary:
•My review of with over 15,000 patients found that placebo treatments have the same sized effects as ‘real’ treatments.
•My review with almost 1500 patients sows that doctors who give positive messages to patients can reduce pain by as much as aspirin and other over the counter drugs.
•My review of with over 10,000 patients found that when doctors are empathetic and offer hopeful messages, patient pain, satisfaction, ability to function (for example walk up stairs), go up while pain, anxiety, depression, IBS symptoms, asthma symptoms, and medication use are reduced by between 10% and 20%.
Positive thinking, empathy, and placebos can no longer be viewed as fuzzy things that affect ‘soft’ outcomes: there is even evidence that they affect your brain and your DNA."