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The Rise of Open-Label Placebos

'I knew they were sugar pills but I felt fantastic'
If your doctor wrote you a prescription for placebos, would you take them? New research shows that placebos might be an effective course of treatment! Studies are being done with patients taking open-label placebos, meaning that all of the patients knew they were being given a placebo pill.
 
review published by Dr. Jeremy Howick, a clinical epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, analyzed and compared previous research that compared the effects of patients given no treatment versus patients given open-label placebos. They found that patients who suffered from a range of illnesses including IBS, back pain, depression and ADHD saw improvements in their symptoms when taking a trial of placebos. Keep in mind, these were all patients who knew they were taking placebos!

There are many factors at play here that make it difficult for this review to be totally conclusive. For example, even though patients knew they were receiving a placebo, they had a more tangible treatment plan to keep to and believe might help them than the patients that were receiving no treatment at all. However, other research shows that people can have a real physiological reaction to placebos which include an increase of endorphins and dopamine which can help suppress pain symptoms.
 
While this doesn't mean doctors will start prescribing placebos, Howick says, "I do think, however, that this research is telling us we should start to recognise the benefits of doctors being realistically positive when they talk to patients."