Preferred Perception

to create reality is life's purpose – lessons from Nowheim

Placebo – Nocebo


I don’t quite understand how double-blind procedures can “assure” that medical experiments are not influenced by the placebo effect.

If the patient’s expectation can influence the outcome, it can do so in either direction: positive or negative (placebo or nocebo). He can believe he is taking the real thing and expect it to work or not to work. He can believe he is taking the sugar pill and expect it not to work. But he can also expect a positive outcome although he is certain he is taking the sugar pill.

Who knows what is really going on in the patient’s mind or even his subconscious mind and what effect it has on the experiment?

And then I wonder how much of the therapeutical value of an approved medicine must be attributed to the patient’s (society’s, researcher’s) expectation. How do we explain when a drug works for one patient but not for another? Just wondering…


Added on 3/24/2013

I came across this documentary of five Irish scientists exploring the effects of the placebo effect:


Added on 3/17/2014

This subject just got even more interesting for me. I read that placebos are getting more effective. It’s nothing new, but I read it only now.

When placebos were first used for double-blind studies, approximately 35% of patients in the control groups improved. Now, at least twice as many do. This has become a problem for the pharmaceutical industry. Merck, for example, gave up on a new, promising anti-depressant drug, because clinical trials showed it was no more effective than the administered placebo. Such “failure” rates have steadily increased throughout the whole pharmaceutical industry including some stem-cell and gene therapies. Even well-established drugs have faltered in recent re-evaluations.

What is happening? Are drugs getting weaker? Unlikely. Are placebos getting more potent? The sugar and cornstarch pills per se are not. Have  mass consciousness and subconsciousness shifted in a way that people are more confident in the healing power of their body and mind? Now that the pharmaceutical industry in conjunction with the National Institute of Health and other health organizations is pumping money into placebo research, interesting aspects come to light. It seems, that a placebo’s effect can vary depending on the country and/or the cultural environment it is used. It also seems that many people who actually know they are taking a placebo still get better.

I wonder where the development might take us. Which medications may one day become unnecessary? Many doctors already prescribe placebos when they feel they will help the patient even though they will admit it only in anonymity. Exciting stuff.

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