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Placebos Work -- Even Without Deception

It has long been believed that the placebo effect works only because people believe they are taking a real drug. But a new study casts doubt on this assumption. Placebos may work even when they are administered without deception.

Even though placebos contain no active ingredients, patients often respond to them. In fact, many American physicians -- perhaps as many as 50 percent -- secretly give placebos to their patients. Since this practice is ethically questionable, a group of researchers decided to explore whether or not the power of placebos can be used without the secrecy.

Science Daily reports:

"... 80 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were divided into two groups: one group, the controls, received no treatment, while the other group received a regimen of placebos -- honestly described as 'like sugar pills' ... By the end of the trial, nearly twice as many patients treated with the placebo reported adequate symptom relief ... Also, on other outcome measures, patients taking the placebo doubled their rates of improvement to a degree roughly equivalent to the effects of the most powerful IBS medications."

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