AFTER THE PLACEBO EFFECT

Trials with placebos mean that we now know that there is a definite mental aspect to how we deal with sickness. So, what now? Peter Van Vleck, media spokesperson for Christian Science in Colorado, elaborates.

Here it is now more than one month after the February 19, 2012 broadcast of “60 Minutes” and the “Treating Depression: Is There a Placebo Effect?” interview Leslie Stahl did with Harvard Medical School researcher Irving Kirsch . . . and the discussion continues!

As a reminder, Kirsch concluded that in cases of mild to moderate depression (and indeed, for a long list of ailments), it’s not the chemicals in the medication that cause positive results, but rather the placebo effect or the expectation of benefit by drug-maker, patient, physician, and nurse that results in positive outcomes.

Some friends dispute his findings, as did one of the doctors interviewed in the piece, citing FDA approval of such drugs, based on positive studies.

Others point to the side effects of anti-depressants and ask why, if there’s no noticeable difference between the pills and the placebos (inert tablets used in all drug testing), we don’t just use the latter. But that raises questions of ethics and honesty with the patient.

Still others reminded me that the placebo or “nocebo” effect has been known in medicine for well over a century! British medical students in the nineteenth century experimented with a blindfolded prisoner by telling him he was bleeding to death when they were only running warm water over his arm . . . and he died!

When pressed by Stahl, Kirsch even stated that he found similar results in research that included knee surgery. Patients on whom only surgical incisions had been made and then sewn up (“sham surgery”) recovered more quickly than patients on whom actual surgical procedures were performed.

In my own personal experience, I’ve found thought or consciousness to be just as powerful and effective a healing agent in cases of physical injury or illness as it is in relationship problems, financial concerns, and safety and protection issues.

But I’ve learned that for me, it’s much more than the power of positive thinking or the expectancy of good – the placebo effect. And, it’s more than just pain control.

There’s a science that’s been around for over 140 years – a science based on the healing words and works of Christ Jesus and higher, spiritual laws about God and man – that, when applied properly, elevates and transforms (rather than tricks) thought and results in better health and permanent healing!

Maybe that’s where all this placebo effect conversation is heading.

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