Saturday, July 18, 2009

The placebo effect

A placebo is a sham medical intervention. In one common placebo procedure, a patient is given an inert sugar pill, told that it may improve his/her condition, but not told that it is in fact inert. Such intervention may cause the patient to believe the treatment will change his/her condition, and this belief does indeed sometimes have a therapeutic effect, causing the patient’s condition to improve. This phenomenon is known as the placebo effect.

A meta-study of 31 placebo controlled trials of the gastric acid secretion inhibitor drug Cimitidine in the treatment of gastric or duodenal ulcers found that placebo treatments in many cases were as effective as active drugs: of the 1692 patients treated in 31 trials 76% of the 916 treated with the drug were “healed” and 48% of the 776 treated with placebo were “healed”

In some trials placebos were effective in 90% of the cases…the result of two studies which examined “ulcer relapse in healed patients“ showed that the relapse amongst those “healed” by the active drug treatment was five times that of those “healed” by the placebo treatment.

Isn’t this interesting? Beliefs can heal you and beliefs can make you ill.

Beliefs are obviously very important. I had this realization yesterday as I crossed the golf course on my way to work: "some of my beliefs are useless and create nothing but misery." I have always thought of death as an end of it all and that life is essentially meaningless. I have always been thinking that meaning is something we have to invent to ourselves. But I might be all wrong. Perhaps life is very, very important and meaningful in itself, but I can't see it because I have so strong conditioned ideas and a limiting mindset that blurs my vision. Death may not be an end to it all. Maybe we die when the time is right for us. Maybe I'm carrying this heavy load for a reason. Maybe I have to go to work and struggle with all thees stupid things for a reason. Maybe it's not even a heavy load. Maybe it is not even stupid things. What do I know?

The problem with religious beliefs is not so much the belief that life, death and suffering can have a meaning. The problem is the politicians, the churches and the religious sects. They kidnap the belief that life, death and suffering might have a meaning and then they add tons of nonsense, dogmas, rules and weird beliefs to it.

If you truly believe that life, death and suffering might have a meaning, it will make you happier. It might not be the absolute truth but it will make you feel better and this is good, isn't it? You will feel lighter, stronger and you will get more energy. Your burden will not be so heavy to carry. However, the priests, popes, mullahs, preachers, gurus, scribes and religious teachers are all dangerous people, I think. Be very apprehensive and mindful if you listen to them. They might want to implant other crazy ideas and beliefs in you're mind, ideas and beliefs that can ruin not only your own life but also the life's of many other people.

1 comment:

Doreen said...

If you examine the scientific studies carefully can one absolutely say that the "placebo effect" is actually due to belief?

What about the 24%? What about the 51%?

Would not you need to examine the entire lives of each person in the studies... when did they die, etc.