General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Is there such a thing as a reverse placebo effect?

Asked by LostInParadise (31830points) 3 months ago
14 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

Suppose someone is given a medication that they are convinced is useless. Could that interfere with the benefit that is provided by the medication?

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elbanditoroso's avatar

Theoretically no, because a chemical is a chemical and it is supposed to work regardless of the attitude of the person taking the medicine.

BUT -> I have a read a lot of research (in scientific journals such as Journal of Pastoral Care, and others) that has done work on the recuperative effect of prayer in sick patients. (I can find the other journal titles if needed.

The research shows that in some (not all) cases, there is some sort of effect that assists the patron’s recover. Is it prayer? Is it that the patient’s comfort in prayer helps the body create some chemical that interacts with medicine? No one knows. But there appears to be some effect.

So if we take prayer as an example, I guess it is at least theoretically possible that a bad attitude towards medication could cause some chemical change in the body that would negate the effect of the medicine.

But this would need a TON of serious medical research to prove.

LostInParadise's avatar

I just did a Web search to show you that it is not just prayer that causes the placebo effect and came across something interesting. According to this, people who took pills correctly labeled as placebos also benefited, which suggests that the ritual of pill taking may overcome a person’s skepticism.

seawulf575's avatar

I would guess there could be. I’m a big believer that a lot of healing comes from our immune system which can be controlled by the mind. That is how a placebo works…people believe it does so their immune system gives them the expected result. If you are convinced a medicine is useless, your immune system will not strive to give you the expected result.

I think there is more to the stats than that, though. When they test with placebos they have a certain number of patients that get the medicine and a certain number that get the placebo. Not everyone that gets the medicine gets the benefits. So trying to say it is a reverse placebo might be a stretch. It might just be that medicine doesn’t work for that person.

rebbel's avatar

Is that not called a nocebo?

Pandora's avatar

I would say yes because stress can hamper healing. Some medications only handle symptoms but do not manage the stress a person may feel. So if you believe the medication won’t work and stress about it, then I can see how it’s possible that you would feel worse even. Not from the drugs but from putting your body into hyperdrive. Then they mistake feeling bad for either being a side effect of the drug or believe it’s not working and they are getting sicker because they don’t have the proper medication. The mind plays a huge role in how we feel. Minor pain to some people can be major pain to others if fear is a factor.

JLeslie's avatar

I would think yes for the drugs that are most associated with placebo affect like antidepressants and pain medication.

flutherother's avatar

I can’t imagine that happens very often. If you are sick enough to need medication you will give any medication a go and hope it works. Like a drowning man clutching at straws. But if you clutch at a straw rather than the lifebelt someone has thrown, you might have a problem.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is more effective than morphine at relieving post op pain as long as both the patient and the person giving it don’t know it’s paracetamol. The moment someone knows it’s paracetamol the effect goes away because obviously morphine has to be better than something you can pick up anywhere for 50 cents.

Forever_Free's avatar

Don’t you recall many peoples feeling about the Covid vaccine’s?
(How soon we forget)

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Lightlyseared Interesting fact!

Lightlyseared's avatar

@KNOWITALL if you liked that I have more.

Painkillers that are coloured blue are less effective than the exact same medication coloured red. Name brand tablets will pay for the red dye, generic will probably be white.
Naloxone, the antidote to opioids, can be used as an effective pain reliever if the patient and the person giving it think its fentanyl. This is somewhat annoying – you could safely deal with a lot of pain if there was a load of ethical issues with lying to people. Also naloxone is a lot cheaper than most opioids so that’s an issue

Kraigmo's avatar

Some things to consider: Placebo works even when people know it’s a placebo.
And it’s powerful.
If you read the lab tests that the hair growth medicine Rogaine went through…. a giant amount of placebo users (relative to, but less than, Rogaine users) grew hair.
I suppose it’s possible that negative thinking (being anti-placebo) could reduce the placebo effect’s power. But not necessarily all its power.

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