What are placebos/placebo drugs? Placebos are fake medicines. People take placebos in the same way as normal medicine, but the ingredients do not physically affect the human body.
What do placebos look like? They look the same as all other drugs, medicines and tablets. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours. They can be tablets or liquid in a bottle.
Why do Doctors give placebo drugs to patients? Some placebos can make some people feel better. Research says that if people think a tablet or pill will help them, they normally feel better, even if the tablet has no physical benefit.
What have placebos been used to treat? Depression, pain, and recently, Parkinson’s disease.
How do placebos work? Medical research says that if a patient takes a placebo, their brain thinks it is getting medicine. Their brain then reacts, producing chemicals that make the patient feel better. However, for a placebo to have that effect, the patient must think they are taking real medicine, or real drugs, not fake ones.
What is the ‘placebo effect’? People use the words ‘placebo effect’ to describe how a person feels better after they have taken placebos.
Why don’t all Doctors give out placebo drugs? Two reasons.
1) It is unethical. Placebos only work if the patient believes they are taking a real, medical drug. The only way patients will believe they are taking a real drug is if a Doctors lies to the patient, and tells them the drug is real. This is not morally correct, especially as Doctors are considered trustworthy people in the community.
2) Some evidence shows that placebos only give temporary relief. They are not long term solutions.
For more information on placebos, visit the NHS website.
N.B Placebos can be tablets. They can be diets, operations or therapies too, anything that a patient believes will help them but is not medically proven to help.
Image credit: V1ctor Casale