Pill poppers or placebo poppers?

Renee Rosenow

How powerful is the power of the mind?

According to recent research by the BMJ medical journal, 55 percent of U.S. doctors said they had recommended at least one placebo treatment during their careers.

The report also showed 62 percent believed giving placebos was ethically permissible.

But this is nothing new to doctors. According to a recent article in U.S. News & World Report, until around the 1960s, doctors used to give their patients saline injections, sugar pills and other medications pretending they were real medicines.

From the doctors that responded to the survey, three percent said they had used saline, and two percent used sugar pills as placebos.

But times have changed, and today’s placebos are active agents that are the over-the-counter pain medications, such as antibiotics and vitamins.

With these medications there is no real evidence that they improve a patient’s condition, but it does help improve a patient’s expectations about their symptoms.

Although only five percent of the doctors in the survey said these methods were placebos, 68 percent of the doctors said they told their patients the medicine they were giving them was typically not used for their conditions.

The article also mentioned that most experts say giving a placebo to a patient was deceitful.

Is this the same as a white lie?

I would think so, because the “placebo effect” is very powerful, and it has been proven. The article cited a study done to volunteers with Parkinson’s disease. They told patients that they’d had surgery to “implant fetal tissue in their brains, experienced significant improvements in their quality of life and their motor function.”

Although the benefits of this trial only lasted a year, I think that when placebo effects work on a patient they can be useful.

In fact, the article quotes Howard Brody, director at the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, saying, “the power of the placebo can be virtually as effective as any pill that we prescribe.” So placebos can work.

I think this can also be cost effective for the patients, since they are not spending lots of money on a pill that can do the same as a placebo. All the patient has to do is think that the pill they’re taking is going to make them better.

I know when I was little my mom would give me strawberry cough syrup and told me it would stop my coughing, and it did. I found out later it was just strawberry syrup, but all my childhood I saw it as the “miracle medicine.”

How many mothers have done this to their children just to avoid taking them to the doctor because it wasn’t a big deal?

I would say all mothers at some point have done this, but is it the same with placebos today?

At first I thought the idea of placebos was a good idea, because it could prevent people from getting addicted to harmful substances.

Now I have mixed feelings because some of the placebos given aren’t without side effects.

The article stated that over-the-counter sedatives can be addictive and can pose particular danger to the elderly. Painkillers can bring some risk of ulcers and misuse of antibiotics – used to treat colds, when it doesn’t kill cold viruses – can develop resistance over antibiotics.

I’ve seen many people just popping pills for many “diseases,” even children under medication for being “hyperactive” when they are what they are – active children. I don’t believe that everything needs to be fixed with pills, when some of the sickness can be improved with exercise and a change in one’s diet.

The article also presented an alternative of giving patients placebos — becoming engaged with the patient. This means that if the doctor is caring and supportive towards a patient, this can also work as a placebo without the ethical implications.

The question is, are placebos ethically wrong?

If placebos are helping a person, it is a good thing. It’s only the method in which it is done that is questionable.

A white lie is never meant to harm anybody. But when those white lies bring side effects, we must question ourselves if they are worth the risk and simply just look the other way.

Lozano is a senior print journalism major and sports editor for The Spectator.