Mind over Matter: The Placebo/Nocebo Effects

Placebo-NoceboThe first time I heard of the “placebo effect” was way back in the 1970s on M.A.S.H., a TV sitcom about the staff of a field hospital in war-torn Korea. The episode portrayed it perfectly: when the fighting delayed the delivery of morphine to relieve the pain of the wounded soldiers at the hospital, the doctors, desperate to help their patients, reluctantly decided to bet on the power of suggestion: the placebo effect. They gave their patients carefully scheduled doses of sugar pills, telling them that they were receiving strong, opioid analgesics.

In all but a few of the men, it worked—at least until the real analgesics arrived …

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5 thoughts on “Mind over Matter: The Placebo/Nocebo Effects

  1. Wren: you mean maybe the Nocebo effect is why I lost my hair? Ok, I started losing my hair when I was 15 long before RA. My mom used to tell me wearing a hat would doom my hair. Se it was the Nocebo, except, I did lose my hair. Ok, mom is off the hook, well sort of.

    psst: (RABlog Week will be back in September)


  2. Placebo is fascinating – I’ve seen (on telly) and read quite a lot about it but the story that always stands out for me is a woman who was on the placebo in double blind a clinical trial for irritable bowel syndrome and completely healed, but even when she was TOLD it was the placebo, without that little blue sugar pill she felt terrible with all the symptoms of IBS … so the kindly study people let her carry on taking the little blue pills and she was fine! (I don’t know how long she’d have been able to keep taking them … they presumably stopped making them after a while…)

    I LOVED M*A*S*H by the way! 🙂


  3. Being a word-aholic, I love learning new words. I’d never heard of nocebo (although being around a lot of negative people in my life, I’ve seen the effects). Brilliant post.


  4. I’m a huge fan of mind over matter. I don’t mean it cures you, but it can go a long way to making you feel better. Eugene Sims has a great book that deals with self treatment methods. How I Achieved Freedom From Arthritis. his site is freedomfromarthritis.com. I think if you are armed with great resources you can help yourself as much as possible.


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