How the Placebo Effect Works | HowStuffWorks
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The placebo effect happens when a person takes medication that he thinks will help, but the medication has not been proven to be effective for the specific condition.
Placebos work in about 30 percent of patients. Some placebos contain no active ingredient. Other placebos do have active ingredients but aren't proven to work on the patient's particular condition. There are even placebos in the form of surgery, injections, and other types of medical therapies.
When people know what the result of taking a pill is supposed to be, they might unconsciously change their reaction to cause that result or report that result has taken place even if it hasn't.
However, studies show that a placebo doesn't trick the brain - the brain reacts differently to a drug than a placebo. A 2004 study showed that the expectation of pain relief causes the brain's relief system to activate.
Placebos are often used in clinical drug trials to determine how well a potential medicine will work.
A 2007 study revealed that 45 percent of doctors had prescribed a placebo at some point. Doctors believed that placebos had a therapeutic effect.
The most commonly prescribed placebos are aspirin, vitamins, and antibiotics. Doctors prescribe placebos because they have no other form of relief to offer the patient. Other times, the patient insists on taking some type of medication.
The American Medical Association created a policy concerning placebos that states that "physicians may use placebos for diagnosis or treatment only if the patient is informed of and agrees to its use."
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