Placebo may Treat Drug Addiction, Pain Management
A study conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder suggest even a placebo with no medical value can ease pain in research participants. The study found in The Journal of Pain.
For the study, the team applied a ceramic heating element to research subjects' forearms. The team then applied what the subject thought was an analgesic gel on the affected skin that turned down the temperature. In fact, the treatment was vaseline with blue food coloring in an official looking pharmaceutical container.
"We're still learning a lot about the critical ingredients of placebo effects. What we think now is that they require both belief in the power of the treatment and experiences that are consistent with those beliefs," said senior author Scott Schafer.
"They believed the treatment was effective in relieving pain," Schafer explained. "After this process, they had acquired the placebo effect. We tested them with and without the treatment on medium intensity. They reported less pain with the placebo," Schafer said.
"We know placebos induce the release of pain-relieving substances in the brain, but we don't yet know whether this expectation-independent placebo effect is using the same or different systems," Schafer concluded.