Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pondering Placebo

Here's a brainteaser for you:

You are skeptical about the efficacy of an alternative medical treatment. In fact, you believe said treatment works through the mechanism of the placebo effect. You do, however, accept the physiological reality of placebo. Indeed, you have the feeling that placebo is a legitimate therapeutic modality - a sugar pill works better than not doing anything at all. If you persist using said alternative medical treatment to gain the desired effect of placebo, is this cure still a placebo?

Anyway, I used this logical twist to convince my wife to try the generic version of Airborne. Evidently, if it wasn't invented by a schoolteacher, it costs $3.00 less for 120% of the doses. Then I asked the same question of the checker. He brought it upon himself by pointing out that we were trying the generic... Now he's thinking, "What a nerd."


Drugmonkey said...

your premise suggests that the credulous should be more treatable with placebo than the skeptical. wonder if there are any data on that.

also wonder if this is why faith and woo based "alternative" therapies seem to work better for TruBelieverz than for skeptics?

thomas said...

Hey there DM. I knew I could rely on you to bring out what I was really thinking. And a study on placebo effects on skeptics sounds like a good idea. Who would fund it? Hmmmm....

I do want to make sure that your use of credulous isn't confused with gullible!

But seriously, the generic AirBorne doesn't taste as good as the stuff invented by the school teacher. I guess that means I'm consigned to using it for all of the colds I'll contract over the next year.

stress - sleep + sick people = sick medical students

Drugmonkey said...

E. Fuller Torrey's "Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists" is recommended reading. placebo (drug) effects are seemingly quite common and large in the mental disorders and some would describe many (talk) psychotherapy traditions as placebo effects. Torry has some good insight trying to drill down to the essential constituents of useful psychotherapy. the client believing in the efficacy of the system is a key component according to Torrey.

from entry on credulous:
"1. willing to believe or trust too readily, esp. without proper or adequate evidence; gullible."