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    Thread: Just How Strong ARE Placebos, Anyway?

    1. #1
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      Just How Strong ARE Placebos, Anyway?

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      (Or see the very best of my journal entries @ dreamwalkerchronicles.blogspot)

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      Their title is misleading. Of course.
      I stomp on your ideas.

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      Indeed, the placebo effect is a truly wonderful thing. It's unfortunate that it's not shown in a more positive light, though it's no surprise when the pharmaceuticals industry requires pills to be sold.

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      Hysterical pregnancies.. Hysterical blindness.. Hysterical anything really.. The mind's pretty powerful, so it seems.

      Too bad it's just psychological, though.. Wouldn't it make stuff easy if it were the magical cure to everything.. Curing cancer by simply thinking happy thoughts? Yeah.. Still remains wishful thinking, alas.. (or is it alack?? hmmm)

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      Quote Originally Posted by CryoDragoon View Post
      Too bad it's just psychological, though.. Wouldn't it make stuff easy if it were the magical cure to everything.. Curing cancer by simply thinking happy thoughts? Yeah.. Still remains wishful thinking, alas.. (or is it alack?? hmmm)
      How is it just psychological? If your mind truly believes something, your body makes it real, if it can. Speaking of cancer, I read a study that discovered a large factor that determined whether people recovered from cancer or not was a positive attitude and a belief that they would and could get better.

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      As far as psychological goes: I think "just psychological" is right, but it's a lot more meaningful than people like to say. Kind of like when they say "it's just the placebo effect." All diseases have at least SOME psychological components. Remember, in most cases*, the symptoms are NOT the disease, but your body's reaction to it. The cold virus doesn't make it so you have a runny nose. YOU make it so you have a runny nose. You don't do it consciously, but you still do it. This kind of bring into question, "where is the boundary between subconscious stuff you can learn to control, and subconscious stuff you cannot learn to control?"

      * I say most cases, cause I'm pretty sure that the ebola virus, and other such nasties that turn your organs into liquid shit are probably more complicated than that.

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      Xei
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      Is the basis for a runny nose really neural as opposed to hormonal?

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      We get a runny nose when we have a cold because it helps expel the cold viruses. You want to have a runny nose when you're sick, it's a good thing.

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      Not disagreeing about the runny nose - just pointing out that it's a response, rather than something caused by external factors. It's a response to external factors, but that means the response CAN, if it wants, exist without the external factor.

      Re: neural/hormonal: Your neurology is one of the big pieces that trigger hormone secretion. So, one can cause the other.

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      Placebo pain relief is not just psychological, it's physiological. It's based on secretion of endogenous opiates - your brain produces chemicals similar to opium/heroin. This is known because some of placebo effects can be reversed by injecting people with naloxone, the same drug that is used to counter heroin overdose.

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      Xei
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      Interesting, I didn't know that. So do we just get an increase in the patient's own report of their well-being, or is there an objective increase?

      Quote Originally Posted by Replicon View Post
      Not disagreeing about the runny nose - just pointing out that it's a response, rather than something caused by external factors. It's a response to external factors, but that means the response CAN, if it wants, exist without the external factor.

      Re: neural/hormonal: Your neurology is one of the big pieces that trigger hormone secretion. So, one can cause the other.
      Yebbut, there are still many things which are entirely or at least chiefly hormonal. Perhaps the cold response is one of these; I wouldn't be surprised, most immune responses are.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Interesting, I didn't know that. So do we just get an increase in the patient's own report of their well-being, or is there an objective increase?
      I believe there is an objective increase. The body does have its own natural healing process for many things (though I doubt it can cure itself of 'everything,' on its own). So, I firmly believe that the whole "mind over matter" thing is not only a figure of speech, when it comes to some ailments. I'm (slightly) convinced that 'sincere, positive thinking' can have real, objective effects on the human body. The range of those effects, though, I don't know.
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      Naturally the body has many self-repair mechanisms, but I'm not sure where the inference comes from that these often have some neural basis, especially one related to higher brain function.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Naturally the body has many self-repair mechanisms, but I'm not sure where the inference comes from that these often have some neural basis, especially one related to higher brain function.
      Well, during sleep, the brain secretes such things as growth hormone, and initiates the cellular generation process, throughout the body. This is a direct, neural connection - albeit subconscious. So if these things are so regulated by the brain, and there is more than ample evidence to consider that stimuli can have an effect on how/when certain chemicals/enzymes/etc are secreted (such as the malleable distribution of dopamine, and even more muscular effects like "super strength" in stressful situations - or, more accurately, the employment of muscle fibers which aren't normally used during conscious displays of one's own strength), then is it not possible that the brain can be 'tricked' into speeding up such processes as its natural ability to fight off ailment/infection/etc?

      If not, why not?
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      Quote Originally Posted by Aquanina View Post
      How is it just psychological? If your mind truly believes something, your body makes it real, if it can. Speaking of cancer, I read a study that discovered a large factor that determined whether people recovered from cancer or not was a positive attitude and a belief that they would and could get better.
      I would like to see that study...

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      I'm surprised at all this talk about placebo effects possibly being "just psychological." Just think about that for one minute. Of course all psychological phenomena, including placebo effects, have a biological basis. Our minds are not made of immaterial Cartesian mind-substance; they are embodied! Would you argue that there are biological phenomena that do not have a chemical/physical basis? I presume not. Then why would you argue that there are psychological phenomena that do not have a biological basis? The numerous biological mechanisms underlying placebo effects are complex and not yet well understood, but speculation about there not being a biological basis is ill-advised to say the least.
      dajo likes this.

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      The fact that psychology can influence the biology and biochemistry of someone is undisputed. However, many laymen seem to take this too far, for example Nina's comment on "If your mind truly believes something, your body makes it real, if it can".

      It's one thing to affect recovery times (it's known that the immune system is influenced by mood, for instance), it's another for effectively magical healing to take place.


      Speaking of cancer, I read a study that discovered a large factor that determined whether people recovered from cancer or not was a positive attitude and a belief that they would and could get better.
      I'd like to see the study too if possible, but that isn't really that surprising. Cancer therapy takes a lot out of a person. If someone is very stressed and worried (placing additional strain on them), then obviously there'll be a greater risk of complications than someone relatively relaxed and in a good mood.

      Again, it's a completely different ballpark from the magical levels of healing some believe the placebo effect is capable of.

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      So what is placebo capable of? Can someone give me a few practical placebo techniques I can try out?

      Besides, if you think about it for a bit, the human body is able to heal itself in all ways, and medicine is only supporting the healing process of the body. Fever kills bacteria, sweating expells toxins,even cuts and broken bones, burned skin will be replaced with new cells. Whatever intelligence is behind this, might be the same kind of intelligence that is behind placebo. Because, it seems that for some unknown reason, these automatic healing processes of the body do not always kick in. I think placebo might hold back automatic healing, creating the illusion, when using placebo, that the placebo is doing the healing, while it is actually the automatic healing processes of the body which are unblocked.
      "Reject common sense to make the impossible possible." -Kamina

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      There is no such thing as a placebo! I hate the word! Dirty dirty dirty word!

      The word placebo conjures up ideas that whats taking place is imaginary, not real, all in your head. But what the placebo really illustrates is a genuine, natural, on-going and very real mind to body process. Because the placebo starts with a belief, this means our beliefs and the emotions that come with them are constantly influencing the physiological processes of our body. Either in a good or bad way. And this effect should literally be measurable.

      I think we need more placebo studies!

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