Ethics and placebo remedies
Recent studies indicating that there need not be 'deception' in the administering of placebos1 has re-invigorated ethical debate over the use of placebo treatments. If deception is taken out of the equation medical practitioners are free to administer placebo treatments.
A resounding 97% of 783 UK GPs who took part in a 2012 study admitted administering to patients some sort of placebo in their practice2.(It would be misleading to say the doctors were giving 'pure' placebo treatments - in the main they were administering 'impure' placebo, i.e. an antibiotic treatment to treat a virus or even lab tests or physical exams given to reassure patients). In ethical terms, the study found that 66% of the doctors felt that pure placebos are acceptable under certain circumstances, although the majority felt that they were unacceptable when they involved deception or threatened doctor-patient trust. The other 33% of doctors felt pure placebos were always unacceptable. Of the impure variety, however, there was much more acceptance, with 84% of doctors believing that they were OK in some circumstances.
Studies that are being undertaken on how pure placebos work indicate that the 'bedside manner' or a caring approach has a major part to play in a patient's reception to any treatment. The administering of a physical a placebo treatment (pills, injection, medical procedure etc.) with the patient in the right frame of mind (positive expectation) encourages changes in brain activity and hence positive results in the treatment's effectiveness.
There aren't any ethical issues if you consume a placebo yourself knowing exactly what you are taking. Whilst the 'placebo effect' might be argued to be diminished or removed altogether research says otherwise. Placebos can be seen to work for some people some of the time. Everyone is different, each individual responding to stimuli in their own unique way. The following placebo treatments are guides only but one thing is for sure - the key ingredient to any procedure is to feel positive about the aims of the regime.
Stress and placebo
Feeling stressed can make life very uncomfortable. If you can, identify exactly what the cause of the stress is and allocate yourself some quality 'me' time and try to work on other recognised stress busting remedies that work for you: exercise, positive thinking, talking to other people (halving your problem), set yourself personal goals, avoid unhealthy habits, accept the things you can't change. Taking a placebo pill at the point / place of maximum stress and thinking positively can help you relax and help your stress to lift.
Anxiety and placebo
When you feel the tell tale signs of anxiety creeping up on you - take a single placebo pill and combine with other recognised ways of dealing with your fears that work for you: analyse what is the worst that can happen to you, expose yourself to your fears, welcome the worst, get real, don't expect perfection, visualise a secure and comforting place, talking to other people (halving your problem), go back to basics - good healthy meal and sleep, a small reward for yourself.
Panic attacks and placebo
Recognised self help methods for panic relief include learning relaxation techniques, eating regular meals, exercising and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and smoking. These are fine but for some, developing a coping strategy that helps to relieve the panic might need some form of ritual - yoga, meditation or prayer. Using a placebo pill as part of a ritual can become part of a coping regime that can be undertaken quickly and easily in a public place. When the symptoms of a panic attack manifest themselves try taking a placebo pill and concentrate on a past positive experience. Panic Attack relief using the power of the placebo effect
Depression and placebo
Encouraging food for thought - some of the most striking research studies into the placebo effect relate to patients suffering from depression. The regular taking of a placebo pill can be as effective as taking the recognised main-stream drugs - with the bonus that there are no unpleasant side-effects. As well as taking a placebo pill try to avoid alcohol and smoking. Try to talk to people close to you and discuss all your worries. Don't suffer alone - go along to your doctor and seek their help and advice, remember it is no disgrace to feel depressed.
Nausea and placebo
Try a placing placebo pillule under the tongue and let it dissolve. Combine with some of the recognised self help methods - don't try to work, sip fizzy drinks, don't drink too much water, relax and distract, eat small quantities of bland foods. Nausea relief using the power of the placebo effect
Chronic conditions and placebo
IBS and placebo
The extraordinary study carried out by Irving Kirsch (Hull University) and Ted Kaptchuk (Harvard) demonstrated that suffers of IBS were knowingly able to activate the body's own built-in healing network by the act of swallowing a placebo pill. By understanding and accepting the placebo effect you can help yourself reduce the symptoms of your condition with the help of a placebo pill taken once or twice a day until the condition improves. IBS relief using the power of the placebo effect
Pain relief and placebo
Phobias and placebo
Facing your fears and gradually de-sensitising the upsurge of anxiety that you feel when confronted by a phobic situation is recognised as one of the most effective ways to overcome the a phobia. By associating victory over a particular fear with the taking of a placebo pill you can reinforce the de-sensitivising process. Start gradually and build up over time - you will be surprised at how the power of your mind can control your fears. Phobia relief using the power of placebo effect
Libido and placebo
Talk to your partner and make sure there is real understanding of your problem and how you feel - try to set aside fixed times when you can be intimate over a period of several weeks and agree between yourselves what you would like to do for each other. At your allocated times you can both take a placebo pill to help you relax and enjoy each others company.