The Placebo Effect is an Effect

There is growing evidence that if you think it works, then it works for you. Like Dumbo’s magic feather, sometimes we just need something that we can believe in to grant us the power to live to our potential.

The Cowardly Lion needed a medal. The Tin Man needed a heart, Dorothy just needed someone to tell her she could do it all along.

Perhaps you need a book that tells you “this is how you lose weight”. Maybe you need a man in a white lab coat to tell you “just take this supplement”. I just needed to spend three weeks without sugar, in the company of a few of my dearest friends, and the duty to write it all in these pages day after day.

Were my results real? Well, placebo effect or no, I have lost and kept off a dozen pounds of extra weight. I have lost my quick temper, my ‘coffee jitters’. I have lost my sugar cravings, my 9:30 AM hunger, my joint aches, my night sweats. Is it real? It is if I believe it. All that matters is your mind is convinced and it’s helping your body to account for the things that are different. Some people grant this power to prayer, I grant it to success. I am getting what I want, and liking the effects and to me it doesn’t matter if it’s the placebo or any other cause. It is mine.


Today’s New York Times goes on and on about how many medical procedures are conducted whose results, when checked against the results of pretending to perform the procedure, are no better at all.

Rita Redberg, in a recent New England Journal of Medicine Perspectives article on sham controls in medical device trials, noted that in a recent systematic review of migraine prophylaxis, while 22 percent of patients had a positive response to placebo medications and 38 percent had a positive response to placebo acupuncture, 58 percent had a positive response to placebo surgery. The placebo effect of procedures is not to be ignored.

58% responded positively to a surgery that was pretend. Some proportion of 58% of the people who had this migraine condition didn’t really have migraines, some proportion of them did and pretending to have surgery helped. This effect works on everything that ails you. It may be why witch doctors can still find work. It may be why lots of things with no ‘scientific basis’ work. Because they work.

There are a great number of things that science will never be able to explain where the human mind is concerned. There are some things that there is no sense even trying to explain–because they work. If it ain’t broken, there is nothing to fix.

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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