This BBC Documentary delves into the well-known Placebo Effect. When an inert pill, or treatment is given, often for a study or a trial, any improvement in symptoms within the control group (the placebo group) is usually written off with the dismissive phrase ‘placebo effect.’ But the subject of this documentary is the study of the effectiveness of the placebo effect itself.
The doc starts out with a group of competitive cyclists, participating in what they think is a study of a legal performance-enhancing substance. Turns out the majority of the control group surpassed their own baseline performance while taking the placebo. We learn in this documentary that there are many fields of medicine and healing sciences that benefit from our own brain and bodies’ internal pharmacy. One of the more compelling insights was that placebos work even when the subject of the experiment knows that they are getting the placebo.
As more people come to realize the power of this information, will we all adjust to the new paradigm? Or will we be able to fool our way to good health? Since all of these miracles depend on the brain, a healthier brain will be more responsive to the effects of “real drugs” and placebos.
But the most puzzling and disturbing thing about learning this is remembering that pretty much all clinical trials and research involves the double-blind test—using placebos as control. So if we can’t be sure that the placebo is ineffective, does that to some degree invalidate the positive test results for the actual drugs?
Given the number of harmful, sometimes fatal side effects of real pharmaceuticals, maybe doctors should only prescribe placebos.