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People Are Now Taking Placebo Pills to Deal With Their Health Problems — And It’s Working

In an intriguing version of an “it’s all in your head” tale when it comes to sickness, Time postulates that it’s not only possible to think yourself well, but to take a fake pill and get well — even when you know the pill is fake, aka, a placebo. The assertion is backed by actual studies in which patients not only were given placebos for serious health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, but were told the “medications” they were taking were placebos.

Although patient outcomes in these studies — diminished symptoms and even complete recovery from an illness — defied scientific plausibility, the improvements were undeniable.

Referenced as the “placebo effect” in the literature, this phenomenon is both fascinating and real, with a steady stream of ongoing research suggesting that even the most serious symptoms could improve with a simple placebo pill. One thing for certain that the studies have shown is that if you think you’re receiving a treatment, and you expect that treatment to work, it often does.

By definition, a placebo is an inert substance that has no effect on your body. However, the placebo effect has become so well-recognized that it’s even been found to work with surgical procedures. It’s true: Just like drugs, placebo or sham surgery has been shown to produce results that are equal to actual surgery, even though the physical problem is in no way addressed!

So, does this mean that it’s possible to just think yourself well? Quite possibly, yes, as research suggests this power of belief can be a potent healing force. Some studies into the placebo effect have even concluded that many conventional treatments "work" because of the placebo effect and little else. Interestingly, more recent investigations reveal the placebo effect is growing in potency among Americans, to the point that many believe it could have a dramatic impact on the development of new painkillers.

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