The power of the placebo effect - Emma Bryce
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If you’re curious about the history of the placebo, this review delves into its fascinating backstory, explaining the Latin roots of the word, and how doctors used the effect to calm patients in times gone by. It also describes the early use of placebos in clinical trials—and if that’s a subject you’re interested in, these two detailed articles will also give you a good primer on the ethical quandaries surrounding their use. Here’s another article that explains how clinical trials work, and why placebos are seen as an important tool in this process.
One of the most interesting things about placebos, of course, is the effect they appear to have on the people who take them. Watch this video, in which physician Ben Goldacre describes the phenomenon and many of its incredible effects. Here you can read more about the famous Trivaricaine experiment, as well as the effect of placebos on the perception of pain. The ability of placebos to dim pain has even caused serious problems for researchers trying to test legitimate painkillers. If you have time for a longer read, take a look at these two articles about the work of medic and researcher Ted Kaptchuk, whose years of research have revealed some of the most amazing side effects placebos can cause.
Placebos present many ethical dilemmas, and their effects aren’t necessarily something we should celebrate—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t marvel at this phenomenon. Watch Ted Kaptchuk’s TEDMed Talk here to see why.
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