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A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body
- Read in 18 minutes
- Audio & text available
- Contains 11 key ideas
Cure (2016) is your guide to the healing power of the mind. These blinks explain the true depth of the placebo effect, how hypnosis can cure illnesses and explain the fascinating, scientifically-supported alternatives to the painkillers and surgeries so prominent in Western medicine.
Key idea 1 of 11
The success of a medical intervention depends on a patient’s belief in it.
Have you ever read the packaging of a prescription drug, only to be blown away by the incredible number of unpronounceable substances it contains? Medicine that sounds this cryptic must be effective, right?
Well, sometimes it is – and sometimes it’s about as helpful as a spoonful of sugar.
Regardless of whether drugs are effective, if you want to get better, it’s important to believe that they are. In fact, drugs sometimes have powerful effects simply because the person taking them believes they will. This is commonly known as the placebo effect, and it’s widely proven to impact the efficacy of drugs, from antidepressants to sleeping pills.
Just consider secretin, a gut hormone. The company Ferring Pharmaceuticals manufactured a synthetic form of the hormone that rose to popularity in 1998 following anecdotal reports on the NBC show Dateline that it could cure autism.
And this wasn’t just make-believe. Studies actually did find that children benefited from the drug. The only thing is, children were also benefiting from a placebo treatment: both the placebo group and the drug group showed a 30 percent reduction in autism symptoms.
Sometimes, even outcomes categorized as “dramatic” or “excellent” can be achieved through placebos. For instance, a 2012 study conducted by Janet Hardy and her Australian research team found that placebo pills had a “dramatic” effect in alleviating cancer pain, comparable to the powerful sedative ketamine.
But that’s not to say that the placebo effect is limited to pills. A 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal found that fake surgeries are as effective as real ones in treating a variety of conditions, from angina to arthritis.
For instance, a common treatment for fractured spines is to inject cement into the fractured bones. Surgeons found that about 80 percent of patients benefited from this procedure – but in the end, they realized it was all due to the placebo effect. Performing a fake surgery was just as effective.
And the placebo effect is all around us. One common example is the way people tend to like a bottle of wine more if they think it’s an expensive or sophisticated vintage.
So, having confidence in a drug or treatment can have incredible results. But what if you have negative perceptions about these interventions? You’ll learn all about this in the next blink.