The Hub of Being (16-1-4) Placebos


All things are possible to him who believes. ~ Mark 9:23, The Bible

A placebo is a ruse of medical treatment. The placebo effect occurs when the trick works. Homeopathy is a timeworn placebo treatment that can be quite potent when conveyed through a skillful practitioner, or in simply believing in its effectiveness.

The placebo effect can be elicited without deception. ~ Portuguese psychologist Cláudia Carvalho

The effectiveness of placebos is an existence proof of energyism, as there can be no physiological explanation for placebo efficacy. The brain cannot cure the body.

The facts clearly prove the influence of the imagination, and will, upon diseases. ~ American physician Benjamin Rush

 Mr. Wright

The story of Mr. Wright was well known: he was hospitalized in Long Beach, California in 1957 with tumors the size of oranges on his neck, armpits, and groin. The diagnosis was lymphosarcoma: cancer of the lymph nodes.

Wright was on oxygen and sedatives, given only days to live; but he had not given up hope. This was because Mr. Wright had heard that the hospital he was in had been chosen as an evaluation site for krebiozen, an experimental drug derived from horse serum. He begged his doctor to give him some. Mr. Wright met none of the trial criteria, most notably having at least a 3-month life expectancy; but he was so persistent that his doctor, Philip West, relented.

Mr. Wright was given an injection on Friday. Dr. West described the scene upon visiting Wright on Monday morning.

I had left him febrile, gasping for air, completely bedridden. Now here he was, walking around the ward, chatting happily with the nurses, and spreading good cheer.

Immediately I hastened to see the others who had received their 1st injection at the same time. No change or change for the worse was noted.

Only in Mr. Wright was there brilliant improvement. The tumor masses had melted like snowballs on a hot stove, and in only these few days, they were half their original size!

2 months later, Mr. Wright read news reports that krebiozen was a quack remedy. He suffered an immediate relapse.

At this point, Dr. West resolved that a bit of duplicity was in order. He told Mr. Wright that he should not believe the newspapers; that his relapse was because the original injection he had got had decayed and therefore was substandard.

The hospital was being sent ”a new super-refined double strength” batch in a few days. Dr. West assured Mr. Wright that he would one of the first to receive it.

Following a few days of impatience, Mr. Wright got his shot. It was distilled water.

Nevertheless, Mr. Wright’s response to this 2nd injection was even more miraculous. The tumors quickly receded. Within a week Mr. Wright was declared the picture of health and sent home.

Then the American Medical Association announced in the press that krebiozen was decidedly worthless. Mr. Wright read the report and relapsed. Readmitted to the hospital, Mr. Wright died 2 days later.

 Knee Pain

We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of arthroscopic surgery of the knee in relieving pain and improving function in patients with osteoarthritis. Both patients and assessors of outcome were blinded to the treatment assignments. ~ American physician Bruce Moseley et al

Surgeons at the Houston Veterans Administration medical center conducted a trial over a 3-year period on 165 veterans with knee pain. Patients received 1 of 3 treatments: scraping out the knee joint, washing it out, or a feigned operation that was indistinguishable from actual treatment. All patients knew they may be getting a sham treatment.

The groups were all reporting improvement; it’s just there was no greater benefit in any of the groups compared to the placebo. ~ Bruce Moseley

Eutimo Perez Jr., who has degenerative osteoarthritis, had pain in his knee that was “worse than 10.” Perez was in the sham surgery group. But he was pain free for years after receiving the “treatment.”

If you believe in something, you can get well. ~ Eutimo Perez Jr.

 Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is of degeneration in the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. Early symptoms include shaking, rigidity, slowed movements, and trouble walking. Cognitive and behavioral difficulties creep in. Dementia eventuates.

There is no cure, but surgical implantation of human embryonic dopamine nerve cells into the brains of those with severe Parkinson’s has been shown to lessen some symptoms; so does sham surgery, if patients believe that they have been given effective treatment.

The placebo effect was very strong. ~ American psychologist Cynthia McRae et al

 Poison Ivy

For a while, many scientists thought that placebos might work by releasing endorphins: the body’s natural pain reliever; but that does not explain the placebo effect.

While placebos may act throughout the body, they also can be quite specific. A study was done in Japan on high school boys who were allergic to poison ivy. Each was rubbed on one arm with a harmless leaf but were told it was poison ivy. Conversely, poison ivy was applied on the other arm while they were told it was harmless. Subjects universally broke out in a rash where the harmless leaf contacted their skin. Only 15% reacted to the poison leaves.

 Associative Placebos

Christopher Spevak is a pain and addiction doctor at the Walter Reed US military medical center in Bethesda, Maryland. He treats military personnel and veterans in pain from service injuries.

When Spevak first meets his patients, he does not ask them about their medical histories or injuries; he has those on file. Instead, he asks about their lives, and the positive memories they have. From these tales Spevak learns what resonates with them.

When Spevak gives pain relief medicine, he works to have them associate it with a positive stimulus, such as the smell or taste of peppermint. After a while, he weans them off the drugs and just provides the associative stimulus which acts as a placebo.

We have triple amputees, quadruple amputees, who are on no opioids. Yet we have older Vietnam vets who’ve been on high doses of morphine for low back pain for the past 30 years. ~ Christopher Spevak

 Shocking Expectation

The master of the body is the mind. ~ Chinese scholar Wang Yangming

In one experiment, subjects were given a placebo before receiving painful electric shocks. Half of them were told that side effects of the placebo were the arousal symptoms that typify electric shocks. The other half expected no such discomforts.

The subjects believing themselves to be in an artificial state of arousal failed to attribute their shock-created arousal to the electric jolt, found the shock less painful, and were willing to tolerate 4 times the shock level of those given no suggestive illusion.

If the brain were the ruler of mentation that matterists suppose, there would be greater consistency in response to electric shock; instant belief alone could not have such power.

 White Coat

The potency of placebo lies in the power of the mind to create its own reality. A significant difference may be had in something as simple as conceptualization.

Imagine putting on a white coat, and being told that it belonged to a doctor, or, alternatively, to a painter. What difference would the coat owner’s occupation maker to you?

If you think “none,” self-deception has a hold on you. When participants in an experiment were asked to put on the coat of a doctor, their ability to pay attention to details sharpened considerably. But when it was a painter’s coat they put on, this improvement vanished. Perception of the coat’s significance made a surprising difference.